Impacts of staffing, food shortages felt in local school districts

PULASKI COUNTY, Virginia (WFXR) – Public schools in Pulaski County are making big changes due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. The school district plans to turn to virtual learning every Friday in October.

“We looked at the October schedule and found that Fridays were going to continue to be problematic with the number of people who needed to be on Friday off. And knowing that we don’t have enough subscribers to cover those days, we went ahead and called to use some of our virtual days in October, ”said Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers.

This is an important decision for the school district, especially since Dr Siers explained that Commonwealth schools are required to provide 990 hours of instruction, and that only 10 of those learning days can be performed virtually.

In addition to a shortage of teachers, public schools in Pulaski County are also struggling with a shortage of school bus drivers.

“We started this year at about 12 fewer drivers than we were before COVID, as well as the reduction in the number of regular route drivers, there has also been a sharp reduction in the number of replacement drivers,” said Dr Siers .

The district is also facing a food shortage. This is a problem their neighbors in Giles County also face.

“As we understand, this is mostly a manufacturing issue. Some factories and factories are closing due to COVID issues and so, months later, this creates problems for school divisions and restaurants across the country, ”said Christy Lawson, Giles Public Schools Food Service Supervisor.

Lawson said supplies like platters, utensils and condiments are thinning and school districts around the world are running out of certain foods.

“We can’t afford peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pizzas, cookies anymore,” Lawson said.

Lawson said the Giles County Public School Nutrition Team had some foods in stock over the summer, but the supply is now starting to decline.

Additionally, school district deputy superintendent and director of transportation Lisa Mustain said there were three vacant school bus driver positions in the past three years. She said they had posted the job vacancies four times, but had had no luck filling them. On October 9 and 10, the county will be hosting a free Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) course at the school board office at 151 School Rd, Pearisburg between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

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