VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Virginia Beach Schools have decided to help teachers out as they navigate tough work situations through the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a school board meeting Tuesday night, board members voted to dismiss schools two hours early on select Wednesdays to help ease teacher burnout. The board voted nine in favor to one not in favor on that decision Tuesday night.
The two-hour early dismissals will take place on November 17, December 1, December 8, December 15, January 5, January 12 and January 26.
Schools will now also be closed on November 24 ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Virginia Beach Schools also said the exact times of the adjusted dismissal are still being worked out.
This decision comes after Suffolk schools voted for an early release for students every other Wednesday starting November 10. Superintendent John Gordon III said this will lessen the burnout for teachers there as well.
While parents seem understanding about the stress, some do not feel it's the right choice.
Parent and advocate Becky Hay suggested helping teachers in other ways that would not mean lost face-to-face time with students. She told News 3, “The biggest issues are longer-term corrections and fixes. Legislation has mandated more and more training and certification requirements for teachers. Perhaps VBPCS should be looking into requesting waivers."
Hay said her reaction to the decision to release early on select days is, “The move to just shorten the school day once a week is a short-term, gimmicky fix but has no real value in the long term and causes students to pay the price… again. The decision lacks creativity and leadership on the part of the superintendent and the school board. Another disappointing move in a long list of disappointments and missed opportunities.”
Kathleen Slinde, president of the Virginia Beach Education Association says teachers have been asking for more planning time, similar to how Mondays were used for planning purposes last year.
"Teachers were so grateful for that and it was so necessary," Slinde said. "What they learned having that extra time was how much better they could prepare when they had that unencumbered planning time."
Wednesday afternoon, Doctor Aaron Spence, Superintendent, said in order to expect teachers to take care of our children, the district must first take care of them.
“I think we’re just now beginning to understand the scope and scale of the academic challenges created as a result of this pandemic," stated Spence. "And so teachers are realizing wow, I’ve got to reach back pretty far and I’m still responsible for moving them forward.”
Spence added that there are about 100 teacher vacancies.
When News 3 asked Superintendent Spence if these early release days would continue past January, he responded, "We’re going to evaluate that, and if we feel like it’s helpful and that our parents are able to adjust to that challenge in order to support our team, which I need to express how grateful we are for our parents and the support that they do offer us, that is something that can be considered, but we have not made that decision yet."
Spence said the district does not have any plans to offer childcare; however, leadership is discussing options.