Hampton reduces number of students returning Wednesday, citing teacher shortage

Matt Jones, The Daily Press
·2 min read

Hampton’s school system changed its reopening plan at close to the last minute, announcing late Friday that fewer students than planned will return to the classroom next week.

Only pre-K and kindergarten students, along with certain students with disabilities and English language learners, will come back Wednesday at the start of the second quarter. The district’s previously announced plan called for second-, third- and sixth-graders to return as well.

The move came following days of protest from teachers. In a message to families, the district cited a “significant increase” in the number of staff requesting medical accommodations in the last 24 hours.

“We know this is a disruption to our families, as many have made plans for their children to return to our school buildings next week. We sincerely apologize for the change at this time,” the message stated. “While other mitigation strategies are in place, given this recent development, we are unfortunately not able to meet the staffing capacity needed to welcome all of our Phase 2, Stage 1 learners back on November 4.”

The district surveyed staff in September, asking if they would need a work accommodation — namely, working remotely — because of a documented medical condition. Teachers who didn’t have an exemption have been required to work from classrooms at least three days a week.

According to a report given to the School Board, about 88% of elementary school positions, 87% of combined school positions and 80% of middle school positions were filled with teachers working from school buildings.

That survey was a point of contention for some teachers who noted that it didn’t ask if they wanted to return to buildings, only if they had a documented reason they couldn’t. Board members asked about the results of the survey in a special called board meeting Tuesday after they received dozens of emails from concerned teachers.

The School Board didn’t take any action to modify the plan and affirmed its support for Superintendent Jeffery Smith and division leaders.

But teachers continued to push back, holding a protest Wednesday outside the school administration building in downtown Hampton. Another smaller protest was under way Friday afternoon shortly before the change was announced.

The district said Friday that students in grades 1-8 will continue their current virtual learning schedules and not change teachers next week. Some students would’ve been required to change teachers as part of hybrid learning.

Monday is a teacher workday for pre-K through eight graders, a decision the district announced Thursday, originally to give teachers time to prepare for students. No new dates have been announced for the grades whose delay has been returned.

Matt Jones, 757-247-4729, mjones@dailypress.com

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