Schools are responding to teacher burnout – but could it cost our economy dearly?


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Several local school districts are making changes to help teachers’ mental health. This includes adjusting schedules to give them uninterrupted time to plan lessons.

Norfolk Public Schools latest division to add extra days off and pay for those who replace other teachers in their classrooms during their planning time.

Some argue that this is still not enough.

“I’m not going to come here on this TV channel and say that this solves anything… It does not solve anything,” said Thomas Calhoun, president of the Norfolk Federation of Teachers.

Calhoun said it was a nice gesture, but the school system is understaffed among teachers, teacher assistants, substitutes and bus drivers.

“When they come back after their day off… we’ll always be short of everyone I just told you,” he said.

The good intentions of schools can also have unintended consequences for the economy of Hampton Roads.

Portsmouth, Suffolk, Hampton and Virginia Beach schools have also adjusted their calendars. Isle of Wight and Newport News are considering changes.

Old Dominion University economics professor Bob McNab said this could exacerbate employment problems at Hampton Roads.

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“We’ve seen more women leave the workforce and stay out of the workforce than men, and that could make matters worse,” McNab said.

When children are out of school, many parents are forced to find and pay for additional child care. There is also a shortage of daycare educators.

So, McNab said, some families may decide it’s best for mothers to stay at home.

“From a technical point of view, it’s fucked up if you do it, too bad if you don’t,” he said.

Neither McNab nor Calhoun were able to come up with a solution, but both told us they hoped things would get back to normal soon for the sake of everyone’s mental and financial health.

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