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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.

Thousands of students in Washington state had an unexpected four-day weekend after more than 600 teachers requested the day off on Friday and administrators were unable to find substitutes due to a shortage stemming from COVID-related protocols. 

A district in Colorado also extended the Veteran’s Day weekend after more than 480 teachers requested Friday off, leaving approximately 200 classrooms without instructors. 

Meanwhile, at least eight schools in Michigan have shut down or returned to online instruction due to staff shortages.

Experts say the mass staffing crisis was expected after surveys conducted over the summer by nonprofit organization RAND Corp revealed that 25 percent of educators were considering quitting at the end of the school year.

Schools across the United States are holding temporarily shutdowns or returning to remote learning as district leaders struggle to combat impacts of the pandemic (Pictured: George Washington High School in Denver, Colorado which switched to remote learning for three days last week due to staff shortages)

Schools across the United States are holding temporarily shutdowns or returning to remote learning as district leaders struggle to combat impacts of the pandemic (Pictured: George Washington High School in Denver, Colorado which switched to remote learning for three days last week due to staff shortages)

Schools across the United States are holding temporarily shutdowns or returning to remote learning as district leaders struggle to combat impacts of the pandemic (Pictured: George Washington High School in Denver, Colorado which switched to remote learning for three days last week due to staff shortages)

‘Those are alarming numbers. It’s clear teachers are experiencing acute stress in their jobs,’ Elizabeth Steiner, who co-led the summer study, told USA Today. ‘It suggests that something has to give, something has to change pretty quickly.’ 

The study has cited stress and burnout as the most reasons for teacher resignation. 

However, researchers say there is no easy solution to the problems districts are facing and argue that administrators, principals and teachers need to work together to address the specific causes of stress and burnout within their local academic communities.   

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said educators feel trapped between COVID tensions, supply chain disruptions and ongoing fights over critical race theory, transgender bathrooms and test scores.

‘You don’t just have the Great Resignation. You also have the Great Exhaustion,’ Weingarten explained.

‘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.’    

Districts have been faced with widespread resignations, staffing shortages on buses and in cafeterias, teacher exhaustion and other coronavirus concerns (Pictured: A Massachusetts teacher giving hand sanitizers to students)

Districts have been faced with widespread resignations, staffing shortages on buses and in cafeterias, teacher exhaustion and other coronavirus concerns (Pictured: A Massachusetts teacher giving hand sanitizers to students)

Districts have been faced with widespread resignations, staffing shortages on buses and in cafeterias, teacher exhaustion and other coronavirus concerns (Pictured: A Massachusetts teacher giving hand sanitizers to students)

Last week, leaders with the Seattle and neighboring Bellevue school districts announced that students would have an extended Veteran's Day weekend after an 'unusually large number of staff' requested leave on Friday (Pictured: Bellevue Public Schools main offices)

Last week, leaders with the Seattle and neighboring Bellevue school districts announced that students would have an extended Veteran's Day weekend after an 'unusually large number of staff' requested leave on Friday (Pictured: Bellevue Public Schools main offices)

Last week, leaders with the Seattle and neighboring Bellevue school districts announced that students would have an extended Veteran’s Day weekend after an ‘unusually large number of staff’ requested leave on Friday (Pictured: Bellevue Public Schools main offices)

Allison Snow, president of the Bellevue Education Association, (pictured) says staff are burnt out from pandemic instruction and the constant struggle to teach, provide mental and emotional support to their students, and make up for lost instruction during quarantine shutdowns

Allison Snow, president of the Bellevue Education Association, (pictured) says staff are burnt out from pandemic instruction and the constant struggle to teach, provide mental and emotional support to their students, and make up for lost instruction during quarantine shutdowns

Allison Snow, president of the Bellevue Education Association, (pictured) says staff are burnt out from pandemic instruction and the constant struggle to teach, provide mental and emotional support to their students, and make up for lost instruction during quarantine shutdowns

Last week, leaders with the Seattle and neighboring Bellevue school districts announced that students would have an extended Veteran’s Day weekend after an ‘unusually large number of staff’ requested leave on Friday.

Allison Snow, a fifth-grade teacher and president of the Bellevue Education Association, argued staff are feeling burnt out from pandemic instruction and the constant struggle to teach, provide mental and emotional support to their students, and make up for lost instruction during quarantine shutdowns. 

‘We’re trying to plow through so much that people are exhausted. And it’s across the board,’ Snow explained. ‘We have bled our teachers dry for so long that we shouldn’t be surprised they have no more to give. And nobody wants to give up. 

‘But it’s so hard to keep going when you feel set up to fail. One of the superpowers teachers usually have is patience. And people don’t have that right now. All of it means it’s harder for us to take care of kids.’

Similarly, the Seattle Education Association, in response to the extended weekend, said in a statement that teachers were not requesting the day off due to a planned work stoppage.

The shortage also wasn’t a response to vaccine mandates, the union said. The school announced last month than 99 percent of its staff had gotten the COVID shot.

Relieving missing staff is more difficult than usual, the union said, due to COVID-19 protocols.

‘Educators are stretching themselves to the limit to provide COVID-safe, quality services and learning for all of our students but we cannot succeed without adequate support,’ the teachers union statement continued.

‘The state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) needs to hear how the staffing shortages and systemic underfunding of public education is directly impacting our abilities to meet the needs of children in this pandemic.’

The union posited in its letter to parents that the number of sick leave requests was ‘indicative’ of fatigue experienced by students and teachers since they have returned to the classroom from COVID-driven remote learning, and the forced four-day weekend ‘may offer physical, mental and emotional restoration.’ 

Boulder Valley School District in Colorado also cancelled classes on Friday due to time-off requests from staff members.

District spokesman Randy Barber explained that pre-pandemic, officials had a pool of 900 substitute teachers to pick from, but entered the current academic year with just 300. 

Boulder Valley School District in Colorado (main officer pictured) also cancelled classes on Friday due to time-off requests from staff members

Boulder Valley School District in Colorado (main officer pictured) also cancelled classes on Friday due to time-off requests from staff members

Boulder Valley School District in Colorado (main officer pictured) also cancelled classes on Friday due to time-off requests from staff members

District spokesman Randy Barber says that pre-pandemic, officials had a pool of 900 substitute teachers to pick from, but entered the current academic year with just 300

District spokesman Randy Barber says that pre-pandemic, officials had a pool of 900 substitute teachers to pick from, but entered the current academic year with just 300

District spokesman Randy Barber says that pre-pandemic, officials had a pool of 900 substitute teachers to pick from, but entered the current academic year with just 300

He also noted that many substitutes have limited the amount of days they’re willing to work or are avoiding classrooms with younger students who are unable to be vaccinated. 

He said that having class when at least 486 teachers had requested the day off was not in the best interest of the students.  

‘We knew we would be stretching too thin and we knew it wouldn’t be safe for students,’ Barber shared.

‘Especially following the pandemic, we want our students to be in classrooms, learning as much as possible because they’re trying to catch up. But there’s a point at which our teachers are stretched too thin.’ 

Colorado Education Association President Amie Baca-Oehlert echoed Barber’s claims saying: ‘There’s an overwhelming sense of exhaustion.’ 

‘The reality is that these districts just don’t feel they have any other options than canceling school for the day. This should serve as a wakeup call that we need to do better by our students and our public schools.’

Denver Public Schools, also in Colorado, switched three schools to remote learning last week and will be starting Thanksgiving early for its 92,000 students by closing all schools in the district on November 19 for a preemptive mental health day.

‘It is of the heaviest of decisions we make, to disrupt students’ ability to come to school again,’ Amber Elias, Denver Public Schools lead operational superintendent, said.  

‘We need to make sure we’re not compounding those achievement gaps.’

Brevard Public Schools in Florida has also agreed to extend Thanksgiving break while at least eights schools in Michigan have either shut down or returned to remote instruction.

School leaders nationwide have acknowledged the last-minute changes are hard on parents and students, but also say educators ‘desperately need time to recharge’. 

Some districts, including Washington’s Bellevue School District, are offering childcare services to those in need.

‘We recognize that this notice may result in the need for childcare for families,’ Bellevue officials told parents when announcing the long weekend. 

‘Right at School, our partner in providing childcare, is on hand to assist those who wish to get quick access to their services. Specific information regarding Right at School will be provided on our website.’

School leaders nationwide have acknowledged the last-minute changes are hard on parents and students, but also say educators 'desperately need time to recharge' (Pictured: Students wearing masks at a Minnesota high school)

School leaders nationwide have acknowledged the last-minute changes are hard on parents and students, but also say educators 'desperately need time to recharge' (Pictured: Students wearing masks at a Minnesota high school)

School leaders nationwide have acknowledged the last-minute changes are hard on parents and students, but also say educators ‘desperately need time to recharge’ (Pictured: Students wearing masks at a Minnesota high school)

Source: Daily Mail

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