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‘It's absolutely overwhelming’ | Fairfax Co. teachers express exhaustion, desperation, and concern

The teacher’s union president said it stems from teachers having to juggle too much amidst a substitute teacher shortage.

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Fairfax County teachers are reaching their breaking point and are pleading for something to change, according to the Fairfax Education Association’s President Kimberly Adams.

Adams said a lot of the issues are COVID-related, the biggest concerns being the substitute teacher shortage and feeling overworked.

“There is still a lot going on with the juggle of things day to day, additional responsibilities from students in quarantine, additional responsibilities just from the new curriculum, additional responsibilities just from a new teacher and your team, and making sure that they're ready for instruction,” Adams said.

The teachers union president said a lack of substitute teachers is exasperating the problem.

“Because of a substitute shortage it's really throwing a wrench in almost all the things that happen in our school system, whether you're a teacher, instructional assistant, or you're the bus driver or food services personnel or even our custodial and maintenance staff,” Adams said. “A lack of people to back us up is really causing us to have not enough time to cover all those holes and to take care of our usual responsibilities.”

RELATED: 'It affects every single level of teacher' | Staffing shortages impacting many schools around the region

A spokesperson for Fairfax County Public Schools said the district is at an average 71% sub-fill rate. In an effort to raise that, the spokesperson said the school board is looking to increase substitute pay to encourage retirees, stay-at-home parents, and college students to become subs. 

On the table, the spokesperson said, is an hourly pay increase for substitutes that will be discussed at the next school board meeting.

RELATED: Substitute teacher shortage impacts local schools

An increase in substitutes is something staff members are hoping for, as Adams said some educators are reaching their breaking point.

“It’s overwhelming. It's absolutely overwhelming and you know some have reached their breaking point they feel like they can't get time off because subs coverage isn't available and administrators are denying the time off,” Adams said. “People are just reaching that point where they have to make a decision is it do I put my family first, or do I continue to put my job first, and they're getting burned out.”

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