After pandemic ends, schools expected to face challenges, according to the Virginia State Board of Education

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A teacher sits in an empty classroom and prepares materials for children at a closed school in Prague, Czech Republic, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. Amid widespread efforts to curb the new wave of coronavirus infections in one of the hardest hit European countries, the Czech Republic closed again all its schools on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

RICHMOND, Va. (WFXR) – In its annual report to the governor and General Assembly on the condition and needs of public schools in Virginia, the State Board of Education says that the challenges schools face due to COVID-19 won’t be going away with the pandemic.

“This has been an extraordinary year for public education in Virginia, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has placed huge demands on our schools, students and parents. The pandemic has highlighted areas of need for Virginia’s public education system to ensure equity of opportunity for all students.”

Daniel A. Gecker, President of the Board of Education

The board’s annual report notes that as school divisions pivoted this year to support students attending remotely and in-person — as well as a combination of both — four factors complicated efforts to provide quality remote instruction.

  • Lack of broadband infrastructure and access for all students;
  • Lack of devices for each student to access virtual instruction;
  • Lack of capacity of school divisions and professional development for educators to support the shift to virtual teaching and learning; and
  • Inadequacy of virtual instruction to meet the needs of students with disabilities and young learners.

Across Virginia, public school enrollment is down by more than 45,000 students, compared to the 2019-20 school year.

In its report, the Board of Education notes that since school funding in the commonwealth is largely allocated on a per-pupil basis, enrollment declines caused by COVID-19 are expected to negatively impact local school division budgets when state funding is adjusted in the spring to reflect actual, rather than projected, enrollment.

The Board is recommending that the 2021 General Assembly hold divisions harmless for short-term enrollment losses so that schools can still receive proper funding.

The Board also noted that despite recent increases in state support, an external analysis this year has found that state per-pupil spending for public schools remains below pre-Great Recession levels.

The annual report is also warning that Virginia continues to face a shortage of quality educators entering and remaining in the classroom and predicts that the pandemic will only further enhance the shortage and increase teacher turnover.

Virginia ranks 33rd in the country in average teacher salaries according to data for the 2018-19 school year.

The annual report advocates for the adoption and funding of the Standards of Quality the Board of Education initially prescribed in 2019, and re-prescribed in September.

The annual report also reaffirms the priorities and goals outlined in the Board of Education’s 2017 comprehensive plan, including:

  • Providing high-quality, effective learning environments for all students;
  • Advancing policies that increase the number of candidates entering the teaching profession;
  • Encouraging and supporting the recruitment, development and retention of well-prepared and skilled teachers and school leaders; and
  • Ensuring successful implementation of the Profile of a Virginia Graduate and the accountability system for school quality as embodied in the 2017 Standards of Accreditation.

Below, you’ll find the 2020 Annual Report on the Condition and Needs of Public Schools in Virginia.

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