VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Classes at all of Virginia Beach’s public schools will end two hours early on seven Wednesdays in the next three months to allow teachers to have uninterrupted planning time.

The Virginia Beach School Board voted Tuesday night 9-1 to approve the half days after administrators said teachers were facing burnout just two months into the school year.

Even though five-day-a-week in-person learning is nothing new, teachers are having to try to make up for student learning loss on top of dealing with staffing shortages and COVID-19 quarantines.

The district is nearly 100 teachers short. Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence said just last Friday, there were 1,100 district-wide absences.

“Our teachers are being asked to do more, to cover more, to cover cafeterias, to cover hallways and to cover their colleagues’ classrooms more so than they ever have before,” said Spence. “They are not able to prepare for instruction.”

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 also announced schools will be closed on Nov. 24 ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

The district joins Suffolk Public Schools, which announced early dismissals every other Wednesday through the end of the year earlier in the month for similar reasons.

“Teachers are struggling to manage the additional workload required to support students who are quarantined or absent,” according to a slide read by Dr. Eugene Soltner, chief schools officer.

He went on to say teachers are actively looking for other jobs because they feel like they are not being set up for success.

Aside from the calendar changes teachers suggested reducing the non-essential tasks they are required to complete and pausing new initiatives that require new training. They also asked for increased pay.

The lone vote against the plan was Laura Hughes, who was concerned about the extra loss of learning time. Victoria Manning was absent.

“We will be looking at other ways to recap traditional instructional time as we go along further into the school year,” Spence said.