Many districts are once again allowing school leaders and teachers to travel to professional development sessions, including conferences, even as COVID roller-coasters through a third school year, reports District Administration.

In their recent national survey of superintendents, 97% of the 700-plus respondents said their district will allow out-of-district travel in 2022, while 87% said their district will allow out-of-state travel in 2022.

Superintendent Dave Deets of Harmony-Emge School District 75 in Illinois says he recognizes there are risks but trusts his staff and administrators to make responsible choices and follow all safety guidelines when traveling in and out of state.

“Not only are we allowing it, as superintendent I’m encouraging attendance at conferences and workshops,” Deets told District Administration. “After the past year-and-a-half, I feel the need for professional development is now more important than ever as we address the academic and social-emotional needs of our school community.”

Melissa Varley, superintendent of Berkeley Heights Public Schools in New Jersey, echoed that sentiment. “I truly believe in PD and think when educators get out of their districts, their mindsets can change,” Varley says.

COVID, however, is not the only culprit still curtailing travel plans in some districts. Virginia Beach City Public Schools has suspended all non-mandatory professional development for instructional staff to alleviate staffing shortages that have plagued districts across the country.

Some districts, like West Ada Schools in Idaho, are allowing staff travel on a case-by-case basis based on approvals by supervisors. “With the shortage of substitutes, we are being careful of the timing of this travel,” Chief Communication Officer Char Jackson says. “Our staff is always wanting to learn how to be better at their craft and professional development is very important to their professional growth.”

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools staff are fully vaccinated and the North Carolina district is allowing all travel that is relevant to their positions. The staff is expected to abide by all current health and safety protocols, Chief Communications Officer Andy Jenks says.

And Stacy Guzzetta, executive director of student operations at Friendswood Independent School District in Texas, says her staff is excited to return to in-person conferences after months of virtual meetings. “So much of what is gained from business travel is the networking and learning from others as well as the team-building that occurs during the trip and in the learning sessions,” Guzzetta says.

If your district is allowing attendance at in-person professional development events in 2022, consider joining us this spring for the CASBO 2022 Annual Conference & California School Business Expo in Sacramento. We’ll have a wealth of learning sessions and networking events designed to help you not only enhance your knowledge and lead your organization into a bright new year, but also shake off the social cobwebs of the last two.

We hope to see YOU in 2022!