Schools respond to teacher burn out — but could it cost our economy?

Coronavirus

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Several local school districts are making changes to help teachers’ mental health. That includes adjusting schedules to give them uninterrupted time to plan lessons.

Norfolk Public Schools is the latest division to add extra days off and pay for those who substitute in other teachers’ classes during their planning time.

Some argue it’s still not enough.

“I’m not going to come here on this TV station and say this solves anything… It solves nothing,” said Norfolk Federation of Teachers President Thomas Calhoun.

Calhoun said it’s a nice gesture, but the school system remains short-staffed among teachers, teachers assistants, substitutes, and bus drivers.

“When they come back after their day off … we still going to be short of everyone I just told you,” he said.

The schools’ good intentions may also have unintended consequences to the Hampton Roads economy.

Portsmouth, Suffolk, Hampton and Virginia Beach schools also adjusted their calendars. Isle of Wight and Newport News are considering changes.

Old Dominion University Economics Professor Bob McNab said this could exacerbate employment issues in Hampton Roads.

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“We’ve seen women leave the labor force and stay out of the labor force in greater numbers than men, and this could just make this situation worse,” McNab said.

When kids are out of school, many parents are forced to find and pay for additional daycare. There’s also a shortage of daycare workers.

So, McNab said, some families may decide it’s better for mothers to stay home.

“In a technical sense, this is damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” he said.

Neither McNab nor Calhoun could offer a solution, but both told us they hope that things will return to normal soon for the sake of everyone’s mental and financial health.

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