VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — One week into the new school year, students and staff in Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) are getting back into a routine.
Wearing masks is becoming a habit and VBCPS Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence is pleased with the way everyone is complying with the mandate.
He told WAVY News Wednesday morning that the biggest challenge he sees will be keeping the doors open.
The school district has reported 141 COVID-19 cases since Sept. 1, a small percentage considering the district has 65,000 students and 7,000 staff members, Spence said.
“The key is that most of the time that transmission, getting COVID, did not happen in our buildings. That’s because we practice safe mitigation strategies,” he said.
Spence said a vaccine survey will go out to staff sometime later this week or next. It will be voluntary and anonymous.
“We would like to know [whether] there [are] schools where we have fewer vaccinated staff, because that may allow us to do some planning around some of these contingency challenges that we may have because of the quarantining that may occur in that building,” he said.
Spence said the Virginia Department of Education also wants the vaccination information. He believes under the Biden administration’s vaccine plan, the shots may soon be mandatory for teachers.
“We are still trying to understand that and we have not gotten any guidance or regulations on that, so I’m not making any assumptions, but I can say that there is some indication that may come down from the federal government,” Spence explained.
His understanding is that the federal mandate may apply to K-12 employees in states that operate under a statewide OSHA plan. Virginia is one of those states.
Spence also talked to 10 On Your Side about the school bus driver shortage.
Virginia Beach is still down 128 drivers from last year.
“I am amazed and so proud of our transportation team for the work that they are doing to still provide transportation to our students in that environment. I’m also very proud of our community and our parents who have showed extraordinary grace and patience over the last week or so as we are working that out,” he said.
Spence said after hearing that Massachusettes activated its National Guard to drive students, he had an initial conversation with some people at the state level — but he has not heard back anything about that.
A spokesperson with the National Guard said they have no requests at this time to assist with the bus driver shortage.
The governor’s office says Gov. Ralph Northam has no plans to call on them.
Virginia Beach City Public Schools also released a list of places where staff, students and families can get vaccinated: