Northern Virginia school closings fueled by staffing shortages, COVID-19

Parents in northern Virginia were frustrated that their children weren’t back to school on Thursday. FOX 5 is learning how it highlights a big problem schools are facing right now: staffing.

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Arlington County Schools sent a letter to parents on Wednesday saying they'd likely be open Thursday. Six hours later, another email went out saying they’d be closed due to other districts deciding to close.

Fairfax County, one of the largest districts in our area, decided to close. Arlington and Alexandria followed suit.

Fairfax Superintendent Scott Brabrand says it was a close call, but there were some parts of the county where the leadership team determined it wasn’t safe to go back to school.

Arlington and Alexandria both said in statements that their decisions to close were made, in part, on the inability to properly staff their schools.

Brabrand says if a teacher in a neighboring district has to provide childcare to his or her own family, they therefore can’t go to work.

READ MORE: List of closings, delays for DMV schools

"31% of our employees live outside of Fairfax County, of our teachers, greater numbers of some of our bus drivers and food service workers, so we all really do live and work sometimes in different places," he says. "That’s never been the problem that it was until this year with the staffing shortages we’ve seen with COVID. So it is fair that my colleagues, maybe who before didn’t have to worry about Fairfax closing, have had impacts."

Brabrand says he understands the impact closing his district can have, but the safety of Fairfax students is his top priority.

Staffs are already thin, and the closure of a neighboring district can mean there aren’t enough people to operate a school.

Arlington’s superintendent says they were already at 60 percent before Fairfax closed yesterday, that number dropped to below 50.

"A lot of people can do the work at home and also do with their kids," says Alexandria parent Robin Razzino. "I just get very distracted, so I’ve given up on work until after they’re in bed, or they’ve given up on weekends, it’s not time-sensitive for me. My husband has been working throughout the day."


Due to different sorts of circumstances including Thursday night's expected snowfall, Fairfax County says they will be closed Friday.