students in the greenhouse

Richmond County Schools are seeing both student and staff Covid infections, which presents the challenge of trying to keep students learning in-person while also finding adequate personnel to be on the job.

The schools have been struggling to find substitutes placing “a big strain” on personnel trying to cover for the staff that’s out, said superintendent Dr. Bernard Davis. So far, the schools haven’t had to merge or cancel any classes due to staffing shortages, but the paraprofessionals who were hired for small group instruction and individual aid are being deployed to serve as substitute teachers, which means there’s not as much one-to-one instruction as planned for the students.

We’re like every other business around. We’re struggling to find support staff and additional staff to meet our needs. But, we’re holding on and the staff is pulling their weight, doing their part, and we’re optimistic, Davis told the board of supervisors at their monthly meeting.

Although the Covid situation was projected to get worse, the school system’s quarantine numbers have gone down, and it has us starting to see conditions level off.

Virginia Department of Health said with the Delta variant transmission in schools has been occurring at higher rates than with the Alpha variant in January. But although Delta has an “enhanced ability” to infect children “an encouraging pattern is emerging—outbreaks are usually limited to several students and the containment measures in the schools are limiting the extent of outbreaks.

Sports: continuing despite obstacles

RCPS and its students are looking to fall sport to try to have some degree of normalcy. And although sports, such football and volleyball are underway, there are often scheduling challenges across the region because of Covid outbreaks or situations where there isn’t a full team.

For example, the JV football game scheduled on October 13 was canceled because Lancaster didn’t have enough players.

Supply chain challenges

RCPS hasn’t escaped the pandemic-era supply chain issues, and one place it’s being felt is in the cafeteria.

Davis said the companies that supply the schools’ food make the monthly menu. But they’re finding that they can’t always get the food they’re looking for. As a result, the menu changes quite often. However, they never come up empty-handed and the schools continue offering meals every day.

“Fortunately, we’re making it work,” said Davis.