COVID-19 Creates Academic Struggle for Younger Children 

Kaiya Otey | Staff Writer

Public schools across the nation opened their doors to students in September for the first time since the start of the pandemic. As numerous schools adjust to in-person education after more than a year of teaching virtually, Virginia Beach Public Schools says that many children suffered academically during that virtual year. 

Virginia Beach City Public Schools released data that about 1,914 students were held back after the 2020-21 school year. That’s 1.75 times as many as the average of the three prior school years, which is usually around only 1,100 students. 

“It concerns me any time students aren’t achieving at the level which we would anticipate,” Dr. Kipp Rogers, Chief Academic Officer of Virginia Beach City Public Schools, said in an interview with WAVY. “The pandemic year, last year, was extremely challenging for all parties involved.”

Virginia Beach City Public Schools have teacher vacancies at every grade level right now, according to WAVY. VBCPS Chief of Staff Dr. Don Robertson said at this time last year they had only 20 vacancies. Robertson says the shortage of teachers has led to larger class sizes. 

“We’re fluctuating right around 100. We’re hiring and then we might lose somebody. We’ve been right about a 100 for the last six weeks,” Robertson said to 13News.

He also said that there’s a shortage of substitutes in Virginia Beach. He says the COVID-19 pandemic safety measures, like wearing a face mask, are also impacting that.

“For those who are not used to doing it, many of them have decided I’m not going to come back and substitute until that’s been lifted,” Robertson said.

According to 13 News, Norfolk Public Schools has the highest teacher vacancies and more than 100 teacher vacancies. Portsmouth Public Schools representatives said, according to their human resources department, they have 46 teacher vacancies. Chesapeake Public Schools need 40 teachers. Hampton City Schools says they are short 23 teachers and are 98.5 percent staffed.

Peggy Peebles, Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Clinical Experiences and Pre-K through 12 Outreach at Hampton University, shed some light on her experience with student adjustment to virtual learning. 

“I observed that student teachers enjoyed the virtual experience because it created a better understanding of students’ personalities,” Peebles said. “They noticed the students seemed more comfortable online rather than in person … I was surprised. At the same time, there are a lot of cons due to the pandemic, such as approvals for visitation [and] differing opinions on the vaccine causing rifts between people.” 

Earlier this September, Virginia Beach families demanded to change the Virginia Beach City Public Schools school board. Petitions rose to recall six of the 11 school board members, according to WTKR. 

A study conducted by NBC, found several reasons may contribute to quarantine-related falling academic performance.

Schools are struggling to teach students remotely or in classrooms in which children wear masks or are made to sit behind plastic shields, separating them from their instructor and other classmates are some of these reasons. 

In addition, with quarantine protocols, more children have been missing school for extended periods due to sickness, and technology-related issues led to attendance and participation issues as far as virtual instruction went. Some districts report that the number of students who’ve missed at least 10 percent of classes, which studies show could lead to devastating lifelong consequences, has more than doubled.

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