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D.C. needs hundreds of teachers for next school year. Enter: The virtual job fair.

Kelly Harper, a National Teacher of the Year finalist, last year in her classroom at Amidon-Bowen Elementary School in Southwest Washington. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

The District’s public school system still needs to fill 450 teaching positions before the start of the next academic year. The city’s 63 charter operators also have hundreds of job vacancies at their schools.

But in-person recruitment events and school visits are barred during the current health emergency, making the hiring process a bit trickier this year.

The solution: a virtual job fair.

Next week, the city’s traditional public school system and charter sector will hold a joint online job fair. Nearly 900 prospective applicants from throughout the country are expected to attend the event, which will be held over two days.

D.C. Public Schools — which educates 53 percent of the city’s 100,000 public school students — will have separate “booths” for early childhood, elementary, middle and high school teaching positions. More than 50 charter schools, which are publicly funded and privately operated, will also have their own booths. Some schools will be seeking to hire support staffers as well.

“We talked about the differences between in-person and virtual, and there are pros and cons to both,” said Kelly Gleischman, managing partner at EdFuel, a national organization that is hosting the event and helps recruit and retain education employees. “People are excited about it. They can do it from their own home. The downsides are that you don’t have that face-to-face interaction. But in the time of covid, I think people are okay with it.”

The online job fair is designed to replicate the features of an in-person one. Participants enter a virtual lobby where they can see a list of all the booths. When they click on a booth, they will receive facts about the school, available positions and any other information the school provides.

If they are interested in working at the school, prospective employees can ask to speak with a representative from the school working at the booth. If there is a line of people waiting to speak, the applicants can look at other booths while waiting to chat. They will receive a notification when it is their turn to meet with a school representative.

The chats will last five to seven minutes and will unfold in writing, in a chat box, according to Gleischman. Employers will receive copies of participants’ résumés before the event and can pull a résumé with the job-fair software when applicants approach their booths.

Until social distancing restrictions are lifted, any formal job interviews of teaching candidates will have to happen via phone or videoconference.

William Massey, principal of H.D. Woodson High School in Northeast Washington, said he plans to attend the job fair with four school representatives. He has filled most of the open positions at his school but is still searching for a science teacher. He typically selects four finalists for every open position to interview with multiple people at the school.

He said it is possible that more positions will become available between now and the start of the school year.

“This is something new, something that’s different,” Massey said. “It’s important for us to jump at any opportunity to get students the best instructors in front of them.” 

Each year about 25 percent of public school teachers in the District leave their jobs — a higher attrition rate than other urban school systems, according to a March report from the D.C. State Board of Education.

The fairs will take place from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. Each fair will have different booths, so participants can attend one or both of the days. Some city agencies will also have booths informing prospective employees about city licensing requirements and teacher housing and transportation programs.

EdFuel is hosting virtual seminars so employers and prospective applicants can learn how to navigate the job fair before the event.

The deLaski Family Foundation and Education Forward DC, both based in the Washington region, donated a total of $100,000 to pay for the event.

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