Schools across the United States are holding temporary shutdowns or returning to remote learning as district leaders struggle to combat impacts of the pandemic including widespread resignations, staffing shortages on buses and in cafeterias teacher exhaustion and other coronavirus concerns. Michigan has in recent weeks seen at least eight schools shut down or return to online learning because of staff shortages.
This is a year to listen to the pain and the anxiety and work together to get through it. This is a moment when people have to come together because none of us are going to get through this alone. Teachers burned out from pandemic instruction desperately need time to recharge after another year filled with masks, testing, sickness and ongoing public policy battles along with trying to help students still learning how to be back in a classroom.
In Bellevue Washington, administrators pre-emptively closed schools on Friday because so many teachers are taking the day off after the Veterans Day holiday giving them a four-day weekend. Snow said teachers are constantly struggling to simultaneously teach new material, provide mental and emotional support to their 20,000 students and catch up from lost days. She sees the trauma every time she walks the halls, tears, anger, impatience. Harder to see are the headaches, the anxiety, the nausea from constant pressure.
Denver Public Schools has switched three schools to remote learning for the rest of this week and will close all schools on Nov. 19 for a preemptive mental health day, starting break early for 92,000 students. It is of the heaviest of decisions we make to disrupt students’ ability to come to school again. It lead operational superintendent for Denver Public Schools. We need to make sure we’re not compounding those achievement gaps. In Boulder Colorado, the school district is closing Friday because at least 486 teachers are taking the day off, leaving about 200 classrooms empty, said spokesman Randy Barber.
Pre-pandemic Boulder Valley School District had a pool of about 900 qualified substitute teachers but it entered this school year with just 300. Barber said many of those subs who earn $100 a day are limiting their days or asking to avoid classrooms of younger unvaccinated kids. Without subs, the district felt it had no other option. Barber said many subs, drivers and cafeteria workers are choosing to find work with less COVID-19 exposure and the chance for better pay. More than 600 teachers had requested a Friday substitute by Tuesday and officials there said they expected absences to mount.
The number of leave requests on a Friday after a federal holiday is indicative of the fatigue our staff and students are experiencing in these months of the return to classroom Seattle Public Schools officials said in a statement declining an interview request. The four-day weekend may offer physical, mental, and emotional restoration. Experts warned a staffing crisis was coming. This summer, the non-profit RAND Corp.
said a survey of teachers revealed 25% were considering quitting at the end of the school year with Black or African American teachers particularly at risk. Steiner said there’s no one-size-fits-all solution and that administrators’ principals and teachers need to work together in each district to address the specific local causes of stress and burnout.
She said the break is welcome but more useful would be an honest national conversation about education funding, teacher staffing and the wide variety of roles schools are now expected to play, from providing child care and free meals to safe spaces for mental health counselling and medical care. There’s this pressure to get school back to normal without even paying attention to the fact that normal never worked for everyone in the first place.