COVID cases leading to severe school staffing shortages


(NewsNation Now) — Schools throughout the country are back in person, but it’s hardly business as usual as swaths of teachers and substitutes call out sick.

Efforts to keep schools open amid a teacher staffing shortage range from corralling students into cafeterias and auditoriums to calling on the National Guard.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Wednesday announced an unprecedented effort to reopen classrooms in the capital city of Santa Fe and shore up staffing across the state.

New Mexico was the first state in the nation to request that National Guard troops serve as substitute teachers.

The state hopes to quickly deploy 500 new substitute teachers and day care workers. School districts will decide whether military personnel appear in uniform or casual dress.

In Michigan, bus drivers and cafeteria workers are now allowed to substitute teach.

Indiana is asking parents to fill in.

“I’m only missing at most a couple of hours of my workday if I come in and fill in in the morning,” parent Clint Wilson said.

The staffing shortage isn’t exclusive to public schools, either.

Arkansas preschool Kiddie Campus Childcare has had to turn families away as it struggles to keep its doors open.

“We are broken. That is just the bottom line. We are broken and at a critical, critical point,” owner Robin Slaton told NewsNation’s affiliate station KNWA.  

As cases among both students and staff disrupt daily operations, some schools are moving back to remote learning.

Alabama public schools reported more than 26,000 cases of COVID-19 this week. The outbreaks have prompted some of the state’s largest systems to make the temporary shift away from in-person classes.

Widespread absences have only added to the difficulty of keeping students on track in yet another pandemic-disrupted school year.

Adnan Bhuiyan, 17, has at times been one of seven or eight students in classes that normally have 30 at the Brooklyn Latin School.

“Part of me was, like, why are we sitting here doing nothing the whole day? Why can’t we just stay home” and learn remotely? “The other part of me knows that the mayor wants to keep the school open for certain reasons, and I can understand that. But the more and more we went through it, I just kept thinking at this point it’s a waste of time for everyone because we’re not learning anything.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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