NEW JERSEY (PIX11) — As thousands of kids head back to the classroom in Newark Tuesday, New Jersey’s largest school district found ways to combat the teacher shortage.

In the past couple of months, more than 600 teachers were hired to fill the nearly 700 vacancies Newark was facing over the summer, according to Newark School Superintendent Roger Leon. There are now only 80 openings in the school district, Leon said.

“We’re extremely excited about being able to start off this school year not having the close to 700 vacancies,” the superintendent said in an interview on PIX11 Morning News Tuesday.

The governor and state legislature allowed the school district to have access to other staff to fill the gaps, including hiring retired teachers, Leon said.

More than 38,000 children are prepping for the first day back, which includes wearing masks for the foreseeable future. Leon said the masks will be required for at least the first two weeks of school.

Only 4% of students between the ages of 5 and 11 are fully vaccinated. The number rises to 5% for those between the ages of 12 and 15, but actually drops to just 3% for 16- and 17-year-olds.

During the summer, however, the number of COVID cases was trending in the right direction and could lead to some restrictions being lifted.

“We’re almost at that same stage to say masks are optional in the coming weeks,” Leon said.