Staffing shortage caused Smithville school district to cancel classes Friday

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The Smithville school district canceled classes Friday due to a staffing and substitute shortage.
The Smithville school district canceled classes Friday due to a staffing and substitute shortage.

The Smithville school district canceled classes Friday due to staffing and substitute shortages, a nationwide trend in schools following the winter break and the surge of the COVID-19 omicron variant.

Across the district there are 19 staff members with active COVID-19 cases, according to the district's online COVID-19 dashboard.

Classes resumed Monday.

School district officials did not say how many staff members — teachers, teacher assistants, school administrators — did not show up for work Friday.

There currently are 63 active COVID-19 cases among students, according to the dashboard, of which 33 were confirmed last week. Smithville Elementary has the most COVID-19 cases, with 25 students reporting being positive for the virus.

There have now been a total of 352 known COVID-19 cases among students, and 101 among staff, according to district data.

The Elgin school district also canceled classes Friday, but because of the winter weather forecast that day, said Superintendent Jodi Duron. The announcement was made at 8 p.m. the night before.

Classes resumed Monday, and though the district was not pushed to close due to staffing shortages like in the Smithville district, Duron said she is concerned about how many employees have been unable to come to work because of the virus.

“Because of the number of staff members currently sick and quarantined, it is becoming a challenge to staff those shortages, especially with the current shortage of substitutes,” Duron said.

Among the district’s students and staff, 470 total COVID-19 cases have been reported in January so far — 320 cases among students, and 150 among staff.

In line with state guidelines, staff have to quarantine for five days after testing positive for COVID-19, while students have to quarantine for 10 days.

The district has been operating in an “all hands on deck” approach, she said, which means that staff, from teachers, paraprofessionals, specialists, and campus and district administrators, have been filling in wherever there is a need.

Amid the new staff responsibilities, Duron said the district is “continuing to comply with required planning time/duty free lunch expectations for teachers, as outlined by board policy DL.”

Teachers who give up their planning time to fill in somewhere else are receiving $25 for each class period.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Staffing shortage caused Smithville district to cancel classes Friday

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