VBCPS superintendent hosts ‘deskside chat’ to update teachers on early dismissal plan

Education

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach City Public Schools made the decision Tuesday night to end seven upcoming school days two hours early in the next three months to allow teachers to have uninterrupted planning time. Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence tells 10 On Your Side it’s in an effort to prevent further teacher burnout.

“We’ve been using a phrase that, quite frankly, was never in my lexicon until the last few weeks. It’s called ‘June-tired’. June tired as in ‘I’m as tired as a teacher in June… and it’s only October,'” said Spence.

He says the school district is down about 100 educators and is still trying to make up for pandemic-induced learning loss.

“When we first closed our buildings, teachers were hailed as heroes,” Spence explained. “As we went into the last school year, in-school and virtual, teachers became sort of a target for a lot of anxiety in our communities.”

The plan calls for teachers to have a midweek “breather” where they can have uninterrupted teacher planning time on the following dates:

  • Nov. 17
  • Dec. 1
  • Dec. 8
  • Dec. 15
  • Jan. 5
  • Jan. 12
  • Jan. 26

Spence said more information about the adjusted dismissal days will be posted on the division’s website by next week.

Virginia Beach isn’t the first district to attempt to curb burnout through early dismissal. Suffolk Public Schools announced early dismissals every other Wednesday through the end of the year earlier in the month for similar reasons.

An email went out to VBCPS staff on Tuesday night letting them know of the change. The message said Spence would host a “deskside chat” to address concerns and provide additional strategies on how the administration can further help staff.

Click here to watch the deskside chat.

Some parents are frustrated but Courtney Clark, a VBCPS teacher, wants them to understand this time from early dismissal is going right back to their kids.

“This will help me get caught up on grading, get caught up on emails, or get caught up on writing lessons, or creating new assessments, or whatever it is. We just don’t have enough time,” Clark said.

“Easily 90% of the teachers in my building are so burnt out that they don’t even know what to do anymore,” Clark explained.

The Virginia Beach Education Association President Kathleen Slinde told 10 On Your Side that some teachers, new and old, are looking towards the allure of jobs you “don’t take home with you.” Staffing shortages in the hospitality industry have brought about higher-paying hourly jobs that can be enticing, she says.

“There are veteran teachers, teachers that I would never have expected to hear saying, that they are looking for other jobs. And they are getting job offers,” Slinde told WAVY News.

In addition to early release days, Spence says the school district will also provide the following as buffers to the burnout:

  • Pausing optional professional development sessions.
  • Adding central support staff to the roster of available substitutes for all positions, including instructional, office, cafeteria and custodial.

“In order for our teachers to take care of our children, we have to make sure that we’re taking care of them,” said Spence.

10 On Your Side also reached out to other school divisions to see how they were planning to manage teacher burnout. Details on their responses below:

Chesapeake

“Chesapeake Public Schools recognizes the incredible stress currently placed on educators as they work to navigate additional challenges caused by the pandemic. We believe in addressing these concerns through intentional, systemic efforts in order to make a lasting and meaningful impact. In addition to providing teachers with some temporary relief through extra planning time on November 1, our School Board recently approved to change November 24, the day prior to Thanksgiving, to a full holiday as opposed to an early release day.

“Perhaps more importantly, as a district, we are currently conducting focus groups to identify our employees’ top stressors, conduct root-cause analyses, and implement more sustainable solutions.”

Hampton

“Currently, no changes have been made to the division’s 2021-2022 calendar. However, at this time, we are working to identify potential options that take into consideration the mental health needs of all of our employees, instructional time for all of our students, as well as any impacts scheduling changes may have on our parents/guardians.”

Norfolk

No information yet, but school officials asked 10 On Your Side to check back within a week or two. The division hopes to have more information at that point.

Portsmouth

“There is not currently an agenda item to discuss calendar changes at a future School Board meeting, but administration has continued to look at specific ways to provide relief for staff members. In fact, this upcoming Tuesday, Nov. 2, was previously scheduled as a teacher workday and administration announced Monday that it will now be a telework day for instructional staff to be able to work from home. These types of conversations will be ongoing.”

York County

Similar to what VB and Suffolk schools recently decided to do, York County Schools are also adjusting the calendar to give teachers more planning time.

Calendar adjustments include:

  • Nov 10: Report Cards
  • Nov 11: Student Holiday/Teacher Workday
  • Dec 6: Early Release

More detail on York’s plan here.

Other school divisions did not immediately reply to a request for information from 10 On Your Side.

Stay with WAVY.com for more local school updates.

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