Only 38 teacher vacancies remain for school district officials to fill before school starts one week from today, a district official reported yesterday.

This is a drop in vacancies compared to 45 around this time last year, and 289 empty positions in 2008, according to district figures reported last year.

A hiring freeze imposed this spring and lifted for most subject areas last Friday helped reserve enough jobs for the large number of teachers in need of new assignments in September, said Estelle Matthews, the district's personnel chief.

"We were excited that we didn't have to lay people off," she said.

"We're confident that we will open school with a vacancy close to zero. Hitting zero is next to impossible because it's a moving target, but I will try my best to get as close to it as I possibly can."

Officials last year revamped the hiring timeline, changing it from August to June, which helped boost numbers.

But the trick for district officials is battling high turnover and low retention rates throughout the school year.

Administrators will also deal with a recent staff upheaval.

Earlier this year, district officials reported that a total of 1,400 teachers forced out of the district's 13 Renaissance schools would require new placement for the fall.

Seven schools will open next week as charters, while the remaining "Promise Academies" will be run by a team handpicked by Superintendent Arlene Ackerman.

The three-year teachers contract allows the district to fill about 90 percent of teacher vacancies through site-based selection instead of seniority.

For weeks, the freeze, ordered in May, prevented many principals from hiring a number of teachers based on full site-based selection.

Matthews added that certifications for teachers and principals in place to start the school year are in order.

Vacancies include:

Elementary education, 13; English, 6; school-based instructional specialists, 3; music, 3; hearing impaired, 2; special education (math), 2; special education, (autistic support) 2.

Also, social studies, 2; and one each for special education (English), French, math, science and instrumental music.