A pilot program aimed at filling teaching vacancies and enhancing diversity in New Jersey’s schools is moving closer to getting started, as districts continue to grapple with staffing challenges exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The state Board of Education on Wednesday unanimously approved draft regulations for a new state law, signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in September, that puts the program on pace to launch with the 2022-23 school year.

Under the program, districts selected by the state education commissioner will have the ability to waive a single missing certification requirement for a prospective teacher in exchange for providing mentoring and other support.

Jorden Schiff, an assistant commissioner with the state education department, outlined the process at the meeting.

“The law is intended to extend the teacher candidate pool to provide relief to school districts experiencing staffing challenges due in no small part to the COVID-19 public health emergency, while maintaining the integrity of the educator certification process,” Schiff told the board.

“These limited certificates will provide an on-ramp to the teaching profession by removing a barrier that may have been preventing otherwise qualified potential teachers from earning a certificate,” Schiff added.

It is an experiment that has been championed by JerseyCAN, an education advocacy group.

Patricia Morgan, the group’s executive director, told NJ Advance Media on Thursday that the need for teachers is especially pronounced in special education, bilingual education and STEM courses — the acronym for science, technology, engineering and math.

“Right now, when a school doesn’t have a bilingual teacher, it files for a waiver,” explained Morgan, who worked as an assistant commissioner in the state education department under former Gov. Chris Christie.

JerseyCAN was among six organizations that wrote a letter to the New Jersey in support of the proposal in June, three months before it became law…

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