The Lafayette Parish School System declared a critical shortage of classroom teachers Wednesday to open the door for it to hire retirees to fill about 40 positions still vacant as the clock ticks down on the first day of school on Aug. 12.

Superintendent Pat Cooper blamed the school system’s operational budget that remains in limbo with a more than $7 million shortfall for teachers not wanting to take jobs in Lafayette Parish.

“There’s uncertainty,” Cooper said.

The declaration is a necessary step for theschool system to be able to hire retirees, and per Louisiana Teacher Retirement System guidelines, the K-12 teaching positions must be posted in local classified ads, Cooper said.

The school system has had few applicants reject job offers, but far fewer have applied for positions open in areas such as special education, math and the sciences, said Bruce Leininger, human resources director.

“Restrictions are placed on retirees who return to work,” Leininger said. “You have to demonstrate that coming out of retirement fills a need because you can’t find anyone else qualified.”

Cooper said the school district doesn’t expect to fill all positions with retirees.

“I don’t have any doubt that we’ll have good teachers in those classrooms, but it looks like we’ll need some of those retired teachers to come back,” Cooper said.

Leininger said the job advertisement should be published in the next few days.

The board next meets on the budget at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. The board reduced the district’s employee headcount by more than 100 during the budget process so far; however, some board members have said they’re not in favor of layoffs and will seek ways to ensure employees don’t lose their jobs.

Cooper said the board gave staff permission to continue with hiring for the upcoming school year and to allow schools to fill needed positions.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.