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After a tough year and a half, Suffolk Public Schools works to ease burden for teachers

The Suffolk School Board voted to dismiss students early every other Wednesday starting November 10 through the end of the school year.

SUFFOLK, Va. — Suffolk Public Schools is throwing their teachers a bone to prevent burnout after a tough year and a half.

Teachers and students have continued to pivot throughout the pandemic.

"Working double-time to ensure these students receive the best education possible and we are all beyond exhausted," said Reagan Davis.

Davis is an 8th-grade math teacher and the president of the Chesapeake Education Association. He says teachers everywhere are feeling responsibilities pile up and staffing shortages take a toll.

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"Everybody is just trying to jump in and help out to cover classrooms, to double back on bus routes, to clean extra classrooms."

To combat some of the stress on teachers in their own division, Suffolk Public Schools decided to release students early every other Wednesday starting November 10 through the end of the school year.

Superintendent John Gordon says it’s to give teachers planning periods they currently don’t have time to do.

"To really allow our instructional staff to regain some of their lost planning time due to covering classes, quarantines, etc," he told his fellow school board members during their most recent meeting.

He says their goal is to prevent further burnout.

"If the planning time is not there, student achievement will suffer, classroom management issues will go up, teacher burnout is there, you name it."

Under this new schedule, middle schoolers will be released at 11:25 a.m., high schools are 12:25 p.m., and elementary school students will go home at 1:15 p.m.

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They'll also use that time to do some extra cleaning and disinfecting.

Gordon says they realize this could put an additional burden on parents, so they're currently speaking with organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, Alpha Best, the city's parks and recreation department and the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts for some partnerships.

Credit: Suffolk Public Schools

Davis says the Chesapeake school division has added a planning day for teachers on November 1 to help them catch up.

"I think that’s setting a precedent for we support our educators, we want them to have the time they need. Not want. They need," he said. "So, we’re hoping that comes to every school division across the commonwealth, as well as around the country."

13News Now reached to each of the school divisions in Hampton Roads to see if they have any plans similar to Suffolk. We only heard back from Virginia Beach and they said they said not at this time, but that could change.