The omicron variant surge is creating a substantial staffing challenge for the Miami-Dade and Broward public school districts.
Over the past two days, Miami-Dade County Public Schools have been short about a thousand teachers each day compared to these same two days last year, immediately after the winter break.
“I do believe that the vast majority of the individuals who are out are either diagnosed with COVID, particularly omicron, or they have a relative with whom they have contact with that was diagnosed and they are quarantining for the recommended number of days according to the CDC, which is five days,” said Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
Carvalho, making an example of himself, taught a class Tuesday at Jackson Senior High School, where he began his career 31 years ago. He said every available employee who has a teaching certificate is being shifted into the classroom.
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“Every single student is receiving instruction, in some cases, in a less than ideal situation, every single student is appropriately supervised and that’s why I’m here,” Carvalho said. “It’s both symbolic for me and the system at this time, it tells everyone that nothing is too small or too big for any one of us.”
Monday, more than 2,100 Miami-Dade teachers called in sick, and Tuesday, it was more than 1,700.
“Anyone who’s available in the building is being asked to watch other classes and it’s very difficult, we know it’s not just our district, it’s a nationwide issue and it’s very sad,” said Jen Kaelin, who teaches at Jose Marti MAST Academy. “Teachers who have planning periods are being asked to cover other classes.”
“We’re taking an all-hands-on-deck approach,” said Broward Schools Superintendent Dr. Vickie Cartwright.
She said there are simply not enough substitute teachers to go around.
“We have a lot of people here located at the district or satellite offices across the entire county and so those individuals are being sent into those schools in order to cover those classrooms,” Cartwright said.
The staffing shortage is also impacting school bus drivers. Ninety called in sick Monday in Miami-Dade, more than 100 did so in Broward. Each district is scrambling to get all the kids picked up and dropped off, by combining routes and other measures.
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