Staffing, food shortages impacting New River Valley school districts


(WFXR) — In the New River Valley, the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact multiple school districts, which are currently struggling with shortages in staff members and food supplies.

For example, Pulaski County Public Schools is planning to turn to virtual learning on Fridays during the month of October.

“We took a look at the calendar for October and saw that Fridays were going to continue to be problematic with the number of people who needed to be off on Fridays,” explained Pulaski County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers. “And knowing that we don’t have enough subs to cover for those days, we went ahead and made the call to use some of our virtual days in October.”

This is a big decision for the school district, especially since schools across the Commonwealth are required to give 990 hours of instruction, and only 10 of those learning days can be done virtually, according to Dr. Siers.

In addition to a teacher shortage, the district is struggling with a shortage of school bus drivers.

“We started this year about 12 drivers short from where we were pre-COVID, and along with the reduction in the number of regular route drivers, there’s been a large reduction in the number of substitute drivers,” said Dr. Siers.

The district is also dealing with a shortage of food supplies, which is a problem their neighbors in Giles County are facing, as well.

“As we understand, it’s a manufacturing issue most of the time. Some of the factories and plants are shutting down due to COVID issues and so therefore it creates, months later down the road, problems for school divisions and restaurants across the country,” said Giles County Public Schools’ food service supervisor, Christy Lawson.

Lawson says supplies like trays, utensils, and condiments are slimming. On top of that, school districts all over are running out of certain foods.

“We can no longer get Uncrustables, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pizza, biscuits,” said Lawson.

According to Lawson, the Giles County Public Schools nutrition team stockpiled certain foods over the summer, but now that supply is starting to dwindle.

In addition, the district’s assistant superintendent and director of transportation, Lisa Mustain, says there have been three school bus driver vacancies for the last three years. She says they’ve posted the jobs four times, but have not had any luck filling the positions.

However, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 9 and Sunday, Oct. 10, the county will host a free Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) course at the school board’s office at 151 School Road in Pearisburg.

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