Amid Va. teacher shortage, Northam downplays livestream option

Despite a statewide teacher shortage, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is steering away from drastic measures taken by one commonwealth school system that livestreamed instruction to students in classrooms.

During a visit to The Campagna Early Learning Center in Alexandria, Northam was asked about the Petersburg City school system’s workaround to the teacher shortage, in which students were taught by certified teachers through a computer livestream.

“I think we still need to have teachers in the classrooms,” Northam said. “Last year, we gave our teachers the largest raise they’ve had in over 10 years; [teachers] all across Virginia got a 5% raise, which we were very pleased about.”

The number of unfilled teaching positions has increased dramatically in recent years, according to the Virginia Department of Education.

“If we’re going to provide world-class education to our children, we’ve got to be able to recruit and retain talented teachers, and one of the ways you do that is by paying them,” Northam said. “We’re still below the national average, so we still have a lot of work to do.”

Fairfax County, the largest school district in the state, has taken steps to induce high school students interested in teaching to sign a contract, offering them a job after they graduate and become licensed.

Fairfax County Public School spokesman John Torre told WTOP that the school system was looking to fill positions in ways other than livestreaming. Last year, with more than 15,000 teachers there, were fewer than 100 vacancies. But the school system does offer online learning to get high school credit.

“All of the options are great, but we’ll continue to emphasize teachers being in the classroom,” Northam said.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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