A staffing shortage is prompting the Loudoun County Public Schools administrators to add two virtual teaching days to the November calendar, sparking concerns from School Board members who worry about the strain the change will have on families.
Nov. 3 and Nov. 5 will now be at-home, asynchronous learning days for students and planning days for teachers. That week already has three planned holidays, meaning students will now be out of the school buildings for a full week. Superintendent Scott Ziegler cited a lack of available substitute teachers as the reason for the change as he briefed the board on the plans Tuesday night.
“If we have a shortage on these days, this week of substitutes, it would mean combining classes, doubling up classes. We don’t think with our COVID mitigation efforts that would be the safest environment for schools,” Ziegler.
Ziegler said that the district has 4,000 substitutes on its roster, but only about 500 substitutes are accepting jobs.
Board members said they were unaware of the operational change prior to the Oct. 12 meeting. Beth Barts (Leesburg) said the change will be a problem for some families.
“That’s now a full week off. If you don’t work, great, you’ll be able to sleep in. But for people who have to go to work, they now have to find childcare, which is hard enough as is,” Barts said.
Barts also said she does not want to see the district lean too much on distance learning, noting the state requires offering five days a week of in-person learning.
But board member Denise Corbo (At-Large) said that without the adequate substitute staffing, in-person instruction is impossible.
“I completely understand the inconvenience this has on our families and staff who have to adjust their schedules and educators who have to adjust their lesson plans,” Corbo told Loudoun Now.
This school year marked the first time since March 2020 that students have been in school in person for five days a week. The state requires that beginning this term, school districts offer full-time in-person instruction. The Virginia Department of Education provided guidance to school divisions to revert to remote learning for emergencies, such as inclement weather and staffing shortages.
“That is going to be a local matter, but there is no state requirement that school boards vote on decisions like emergency closures (think snow days) or temporary reversions to remote learning in response to such circumstances,” Virginia Department of Education public information officer Charles Pyle said in an email to Loudoun Now.