Lexington area teachers are burned-out, hesitate to teach summer school

By Felicity Taylor

Lexington and Rockbridge County schools are increasing summer school pay to entice teachers to participate in classes designed to help students make up ground they’ve lost because of the pandemic.

Lexington schools are increasing summer school pay to $35 from $25. Rockbridge County will also pay teachers $35 an hour to teach in person during the summer.

“It takes either a really special person or a little extra money,” said Rebecca Walters, superintendent of Lexington schools.

Both school systems are offering summer school for students in all grades.

Walters said teachers at Harrington Waddell Elementary School in Lexington were reluctant to teach during summer. But she said the pay increase is helping.

“We say they work hard. It’s beyond hard.” – Tim Martino, Rockbridge County Schools Director of K-12 Education

Lexington and Rockbridge County are using money from the federal CARES Act II, which provides schools with extra funding, to cover the increases in summer wages.

Walters told Lexington City Council during its annual retreat last week that she was concerned about the lack of teachers who were volunteering to teach summer sessions.

She said teachers are “burned-out.”

Tim Martino, director of K-12 Education in Rockbridge County Schools, said teachers have exceeded expectations during the pandemic.

“We say they work hard,” he said. “It’s beyond hard.”

Even though Lexington and Rockbridge County elementary schools funnel into the same high school, the districts’ plans differ.

Summer school isn’t usually offered for students in middle and elementary schools in Rockbridge County. But students will be able to attend summer school this year.

For the high school level, summer sessions will be offered to students who need to retake courses they failed during the academic year.

For middle and elementary schools, summer instruction will be designed to make up what students missed or didn’t have time to complete.

The summer school program for Lexington’s Lylburn Downing Middle School will include only math and English.

Melanie Camden, principal of Waddell, said the K-5 program will be from 8 a.m. to noon for four weeks, in person for two weeks in June and two weeks in July.

Rockbridge County elementary schools are planning a three-week program that will begin three weeks before the scheduled Aug. 17 start of the new school year.

Martino called it an “early back” model. “They will retain remediation this way,” he said, referring to remedial learning.

Rockbridge County will know how many teachers are needed as soon as families apply to enroll their children in summer school, Martino said.

Lexington plans to have 10 to 12 students in each grade enrolled in the summer program. One to two teachers will teach each class. Teachers will be able to “job share,” meaning they can split the four weeks, Walters said.

Both Martino and Walters said the school systems are trying to lighten their teachers’ workload as much as possible.