Both private and public sector dealing with staffing issues due to COVID-19 spread

Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 2:54 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 6, 2022 at 4:46 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - It’s been all hands on deck within the Richmond Public Schools.

Superintendent Jason Kamras announced the division has to do some serious staffing shuffling because they have 160 teachers out. That’s about 8% of the workforce.

RPS is deploying office staff to help fill in the staffing gaps. They’re also short bus drivers, so expect delays at the bus stop.

“Our schools have proven to be very, very safe, but we also know the risk of closure and the impact and the harm in terms of academics and social and emotional health is very high,” said Jason Kamras, Richmond Public Schools Superintendent.

The division was closed earlier this week due to snow, and Thursday was the first day back from winter break for the city’s 22,000 students.

Kamras says health models indicate the Omicron wave will peak in mid-January, and then they hope staffing will level out. He vowed to keep schools open no matter what.

“We want them in school, and so I support Mr. Kamras in not closing schools,” said Mayor Levar Stoney, City of Richmond.

At a COVID-19 briefing Thursday, Mayor Levar Stoney said about 80 city employees tested positive over the last week, with another 50 considered exposed.

Currently, the mayor says the impacts are manageable, with about 3,500 employees overall.

“I think it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you have the sniffles, you know, a scratchy throat or whatever may feel like a symptom of COVID-19, it’s best to play it safe and stay home. But that obviously creates a serious impact on the way we just go about everyday business of running the city or running a school system,” said Mayor Stoney.

Richmond - Henrico Health Districts is also acknowledging the omicron spread and its impacts on employees. Nurse manager Amy Popovich said they’ve seen an uptick in businesses and organizations asking for isolation guidance.

“We do encourage businesses, organizations to really think about ensuring their employees are wearing masks when they are inside, encouraging employees to get vaccinated and get their booster,” said Amy Popovich, RHHD Nurse Manager.

The Richmond Education Association is out with a letter, saying in part, “It is crucial that the administration provide clear guidance on what level of staffing we need to consider work sites operational and safe for students and staff.”

REA also asks, “As infection rates continue to increase, parents, students, and staff are all wondering if and when they need to prepare for virtual learning.”

Meanwhile, in Henrico, hundreds of teachers and staff were also out Thursday. Of the more than 7,000 employees of the district, more than 570 were out, with 404 of those being teachers.

Henrico did emphasize these absences are not all COVID-related. No specific number was given for absences linked to the virus.

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