LYNCHBURG, Va (WFXR) — Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine stopped by William Marvin Bass Elementary school in Lynchburg on Wednesday, Feb. 22, to talk with faculty and parents about challenges facing the school district.

“We hear again and again — and I heard it from Principal Hendricks, and I heard it from your superintendent — attracting and retaining teachers is getting to be a real challenge,” said Kaine.

The principal of William Marvin Bass Elementary School, Monica Hendricks, says she believes the COVID-19 pandemic played a big role in losing educators.

“We’re losing teachers, we’re losing candidates because they’re not interested in education for whatever reason, and I think the pandemic has shed some negative light on education,” said Hendricks.

Third-grade teacher, Olivia DeSilva, said after the pandemic, students and teachers are having to re-adjust to in-person learning.

“Until you’re in that classroom with those kids, and their faces, and their personalities, and all of their different learning needs, you don’t know what it’s like,” said DeSilva.

Senator Kaine also acknowledged that teacher pay is another huge factor discouraging people from entering the field.

“You’ll find teachers that really love the job and want to stay, they can’t stay and make a career out of it,” said Kaine.

Senator Kaine says the general assembly is working to increase educator pay but says there is still work to be done.

Deputy Superintendent of Operations and Strategic Planning with Lynchburg City Schools, Dr. Reid Wodicka, adds that retaining good educators is just as important.

“The most important thing that we do as a school division is to put incredible teachers and staff and school personnel in front of our kids every day,” said Dr. Wodicka.

Despite the challenges, Senator Kaine and Lynchburg City Schools also celebrated the addition of 25 zero-emission school buses that will begin running in the near future. The buses will save the school district hundreds of thousands of dollars on fuel and create a cleaner, more eco-friendly experience for students.