A number of recommendations were made at a Harrisonburg School Board work session Tuesday to alleviate the stress and shortages being caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The goal is to keep students in the classroom as much as possible. The School Board agreed with the changes, which include shortening the school day, and approved the measures.
Some of the challenges Harrisonburg City Public Schools is facing, along with school divisions across the state, are the increasing number of students testing positive for the virus and the increase in the number of students having to quarantine. As of Tuesday night, 275 students were in quarantine, including 151 students from Harrisonburg High School.
Additional challenges include increased request for substitute teachers, which on a daily basis is two to five times greater than a normal school year, the general thinness that employees are being stretched, causing stress, bus driver shortages, and not enough planning time for teachers.
As a result a number of relief measures are being recommended:
• Shorten the instructional day by one hour until Dec. 17, with the exception of prekindergarten
• Limit field trips that rely on the Harrisonburg Department of Public Transportation
• Temporarily limit divisionwide meetings
• Deploy Central Office staff to school buildings to help out
• For this year only, allow all unused personal days to roll over, instead of the usual three
• Communicate and coordinate with external partners to provide an additional hour of care
• HCPS mental health team will expand wellness support groups in schools for staff
• Hire permanent substitute teachers, starting with elementary
The shortened school days will not keep HCPS from meeting the Virginia Department of Education’s minimally mandated 990 instructional hours for the 2021-22 school year.
The School Board also heard an update on the timeline for the School Resource Officer Task Force. The task force formed in February and after having a public meeting and focus groups, the task force is expected to present its preliminary recommendations next month.