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School divisions facing a varied range of vacancies amid new academic year

Hampton Roads schools are not immune to the nationwide trend of staffing shortages. Administrators and hiring managers have tried to navigate around the challenges.

NORFOLK, Va. — Staffing shortages at schools have undoubtedly led to an increase in recruitment strategies regionwide. However, teaching positions are not the only ones that need to get filled. Some leaders express an even greater need for bus drivers, custodians, and food service employees.

Locally, the need for teachers at local school divisions varies. Administrators and spokespeople who 13News Now got in touch with highlighted their efforts to bounce back from pandemic-related disruptions.

RELATED: School leaders work to fill dozens of vacancies, encourage retired teachers to apply

In Virginia Beach, public school leaders recorded 52 full-time instructional vacancies as of August 22. Officials there say about 5,200 teacher positions are considered fully staffed.

"We are still staffing positions, but even greater than that, each of our schools who currently have a vacancy, they do have a backup plan for coverage," said Virginia Beach City Public Schools Chief Human Resources Officer Cheryl Woodhouse. 

As of August 23, a Portsmouth Public Schools spokesperson logged 100 teacher vacancies out of 990 total teacher allocations. On the same day, a Hampton City Schools spokesperson counted 88 teacher openings out of approximately 1,500 teachers required yearly.

In an email sent to 13News Now on August 31, a spokesperson for Norfolk Public Schools shared the division has upwards of 200 classroom teacher vacancies. 

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Staying on the Southside, leaders with Chesapeake Public Schools reported more than 40 teacher openings as of August 24. A number of approximately 3,000 is considered fully staffed.

"We're moving more into... it's not a normal school year, but it's going to be more normal than it's been over the past two," said Chesapeake Public Schools Chief Human Resources Officer Dr. Brian Austin. It's a statement other divisions also want to relay to families.


Things are moving to a more normal state, even as recruiters face challenges in a competitive market space.

"Decreasing number of teachers that are becoming available that we are all competing for in the pool, the pandemic has made that problem worse," said York County School Division Chief Human Resources Officer Dr. Anthony Vladu. 

Vladu reported 10 teaching vacancies within the division, but many of those positions had candidates in the pipeline, as of August 23.

RELATED: Teacher Shortage: How Suffolk is working to manage the problem

"Even before the pandemic, there were staffing challenges – both instructional and support staffing. The pandemic exacerbated those challenges," said Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools Chief Operating Officer Daniel Keever. "Folks now have a lot of options with where they work, how they work and when they work."

Keever informed 13News Now of just six instructional vacancies, as of August 24. His division has roughly 1,000 total teacher allocations.


Moreover, hiring managers are trying their best to fill the need for critical support positions like custodians, food service employees, and drivers. Numbers vary, depending on the division.

Some leaders caution school bus transportation might hit some snags, especially at the beginning of a new academic year.

"Until we are fully staffed, we always want to communicate upfront with our communities: please be patient with us. You may see some delays," said Woodhouse with Virginia Beach.

RELATED: Higher wages offered as Hampton Roads faces school bus driver shortage

"Vacancies shouldn't create uncertainty. It's just understanding we have some incredible people who step up every day to help our children," Austin with Chesapeake added.

Some divisions, such as Hampton City Schools, point out major strides.

"While there are a number of vacancies in our support areas, they are limited and we are able to operate without interruption," a spokesperson wrote to 13News Now. 


In an effort to recruit and retain, pathways to gain licenses and in-house training turned into a priority in some cases. Fairs, pay increases, as well as sign-on bonuses became popular moves. School officials mentioned maximizing any local and/or state funding provided to their division, in order to boost those incentives and compensation.

"Certainly, it's financial but at the same time, it's also developing relationships with employees and helping them recognize their value to the organization," said Keever. 

"How people feel about instruction, how people feel about how the division is treating them, how people feel about their supervisors, how people feel about their community -- all of those are important factors," said Vladu.

RELATED: Back to School: The new principals coming to schools in the 757


Overall, there is a general excitement surrounding the new school year. Despite staffing shortages, leaders tout adjustments in an effort to minimize day-to-day impacts in the classroom. 

A Norfolk Public Schools spokesperson wrote to 13News Now, "Long-term substitutes and other division level supports will be put in place to ensure that the instructional day is meaningful and not disrupted."

A spokesperson for Portsmouth Public Schools echoed those sentiments, adding that they are utilizing "strategic schedule planning, offering virtual courses as well as contracting staffing services to continue to provide instruction. Class sizes will not be impacted much as those ratios are mandated by state SOQ standards as well as Title I and other requirements."

Hiring is an ongoing process for schools, so potential candidates can expect openings and recruitment efforts for vacancies this year and in some cases, next year. 

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