Back-to-school guide: Everything to know to start the year off right

Published: Aug. 15, 2022 at 2:22 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 26, 2022 at 6:04 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - While some students are already back in the classroom, other schools around Central Virginia are gearing up to head back for another year of learning.

To help get you ready for the 2022-23 school year, NBC12 held two specials for parents and educators on our website and streaming services.

“Building a Better RVA: A Talk with Teachers” can be watched above, which covers topics such as school safety and what it’s like to teach during the pandemic. You can watch the “Back to School” special below. It highlights bus safety, school supply costs, teacher vacancies and much more.

As students prepare for the 2022-23 school year, here is everything to know to start the year off right.

Start Dates

Several schools have already returned to school, including the City of Hopewell and Louisa, Amelia and Caroline counties.

Schools in Metro Richmond will start to return on Aug. 22, including Chesterfield, and on Aug. 29 for Petersburg, Henrico and Richmond. Hanover Schools will start the school year after Labor Day on Sept. 6.

For a full list of start dates, click here.

When students do return to school, make sure you send us your first day of school pictures below.

School Supply Costs

According to the National Retail Federation, families with school-aged children averaged more than $840 on school supplies last year.

Cherry Dale, a financial coach with the Virginia Credit Union, said sticking to the specific items on the list will help keep costs down. She also urged parents to reach out to the school if they run short on supplies.

If you need help getting supplies for your child, try contacting your local school district or community organization, like the United Way or the Boys & Girls Club of America.

For more on spending tips, click here.

School Tips for Elementary Students

With a new school year approaching - or, for some, getting underway - a local doctor reminds parents that every year is a fresh start. NBC12′s Sarah Bloom has some tips and tricks to help prepare your elementary-age student for school.

With a new school year approaching - or, for some, getting underway - a local doctor reminds parents that every year is a fresh start.

For older students, be sure to talk to them about how important sleep is, as well as the appropriate use of cell phones.

Staffing Vacancies

Many school divisions across central Virginia, and even the country, experienced problems filling hundreds of teaching positions.

“We are seeing trends here in Henrico that are being felt nationally with the teacher shortage,” said Henrico County Public Schools Superintendent Amy Cashwell. “This is something that’s been on our radar for about a decade now, understanding that teacher preparation programs are producing fewer graduates, fewer interested in that field.”

As large school divisions across Central Virginia look to fill teacher vacancies, others are opening their schools with a full slate of staff.

To help with recruitment, many divisions started offering sign-on incentives to teachers, bus drivers, food service employees and custodians.

As school divisions across Central Virginia look to fill these spots, other school divisions have a full staff. This includes Louisa County, which has returned to the classroom already, and Goochland County, which will return to learning on Aug. 22.

School Safety

School safety is on every parent’s and teacher’s mind as the year begins. NBC12′s Mikea Turner spoke with a group of teachers from central Virginia about how they prepare for a shooting or other situations that jeopardize anyone’s safety.

One Chesterfield teacher said decorating her classroom has always been the norm, but since the massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, where she decided to arrange classroom equipment is somewhat new.

“My classroom is designed for safety situations,” said Manchester High School teacher Kelley Perrotte, who started thinking outside of the box in the wake of school shootings like the one in Uvalde, Texas. “I’ve taught in classrooms without windows; I’ve taught in classrooms with windows, so where you are in a building determines the conversation you have with your students.”

Perrotte said teachers there also teach with the door shut and locked as part of a new protocol.

Rasheeda Ogburn was a special education teacher at Richmond County Middle School during the 2021-2022 school year and says students’ whereabouts during school hours are more of a priority too.

“We’ve even changed how the kids go to the bathroom,” said Ogburn, who explained some of the school’s newer protocols to make sure students are accounted for. “You have to sign in or sign out in a computer, so the admin knows who is in the hallway and who’s not just in case something happens.”

Watch the video below to learn more about how teachers respond to school safety.

In the first part of this week’s special edition of Building a Better RVA, a group of local teachers discusses school safety with our Mikea Turner.

Teaching in a Pandemic

The last two years of a pandemic have challenged us in ways we could have never imagined. Teachers, students and communities felt the discomfort of shifting from in-person learning to virtual instruction.

During the pandemic lockdowns, teachers said they had to learn quickly. Confusion, at times, was plenty.

“Nobody knew how to teach virtually, so we had to learn,” said Richmond County Middle School teacher Rasheeda Ogburn, who said preparation felt like a 24/7 job. “There were times when my family wanted to spend time with me, but I couldn’t because I had to figure this thing out.”

Hakeem Stephens, a math teacher at George Wythe High School, saw the effect on students firsthand. At George Wythe High, some students have greater needs like internet access at home.

“A lot of our kids are house-to-house, they may be homeless, or their circumstances may not be the best,” said Stephens, in deep reflection. “Students would email me at midnight apologizing for missing class, but (saying) ‘I just couldn’t do it today, the connection was going down.’”

When students did return to class for in-person learning, some teachers noticed difficulty in their ability to re-adjust to routine.

“When they came to school, they had to re-learn what it was like to be a student,” said Ogburn, who says some students became used to logging off on their computers when they were virtual and now struggle with staying focused.

For many schools, this will be the first full year of in-person learning since the pandemic started. Data from the National Institute of Education Sciences indicates students are returning to the classroom with increased feelings of stress and anxiety from the pandemic.

Public schools across the country are also reporting increased behavior problems since students have returned to in-person learning. The data ranged from physical fights to disrespecting teachers and shows outbursts and tardiness increased the most from the pandemic.

COVID-19 School Guidelines

In July, Governor Glenn Youngkin announced updated COVID-19 quarantine guidance for asymptomatic exposures in schools, child care and camp settings.

“This revised guidance outlines that quarantine is no longer routinely recommended after exposure to COVID-19 infected individuals in child care, K-12 schools, and camp settings,” a release said.

Earlier this year, people were encouraged to weigh their own risks and determine precautions for themselves and their families.

To learn more about the governor’s updated guidelines, click here.

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