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Citing staff shortages, the Jefferson County school system will only have half days for students every Friday through Nov. 19, starting this week.

“These shortages are forcing our existing staff to cover multiple positions every day to ensure student safety and services,” the Eastern Panhandle district announced in an online document last week.

“While we are proud to have kept schools open and students safely served, it is clear that the significant shortages are affecting our ability to serve children at the level we expect of ourselves,” the school system said. It said every principal “is covering multiple classes per week.”

“The foundation that undergirds all high-performing schools is a staff that plans well and can personalize the learning to each child’s level,” the district said. “We have many tools for ensuring we do that regularly. All of those tools require time, something our staff does not have enough of right now.”

The half-day Fridays will provide teachers three hours per week for “unencumbered planning, performance reviews and material preparation time,” the school system said. Students will still get lunch before they head home.

“Our teachers are losing planning every day to covering other classes for colleagues,” the district said. “Our custodians are struggling with overwhelming shortages in trying to keep our buildings clean.”

Jefferson schools public information officer Hans Fogle said that, as of Friday, there were 12 staff out for COVID-19 related issues. But the district’s explanation document said staff numbers were already “tight.”

“We are hyper-competitive right now with Washington County, Maryland, Loudoun County, Virginia, Frederick County, Maryland, City of Winchester, (Virginia),” Fogle said. “All of those counties are more than $10,000 above our starting salary for a teacher, and we just can’t compete with that salary in a lot of cases.”

Fogle said Jefferson already requires all students and employees wear masks.

Ryan Quinn covers education. He can be reached at 304-348-1254 or

Follow @RyanEQuinn on Twitter.

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