COVID

Schools struggle to return amid teacher, bus driver shortages

"If I have to go out and teach in the classroom, I'm going to do that," Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said.

Cambridge students wait in line at King Open Elementary School, with their parents, to be tested for the COVID-19 virus, before school reopens after the winter break. Photo by Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

It’s going to be a challenging week for local schools, officials acknowledged Monday.

As of Monday morning, more than 150 Boston teachers called in sick for Tuesday, the day schools were set to reopen after winter break, Superintendent Brenda Cassellius told NBC 10 Boston.

It’s a large number, but the district employs more than 4,000 teachers, according to district data.

So far, there are no plans to close any schools Tuesday.

“The plan right now is to assess each school case by case,” Cassellius told NBC 10. “If I have to go out and teach in the classroom, I’m going to do that. But our goal is to keep classes going and keep students in-person.”

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Boston schools spokesman Jonathan Palumbo echoed the superintendent in his statements to The Boston Globe. He noted the district’s reserve of 500 substitute teachers and its ability to call on central office staff to oversee classes.

However, staffing classes won’t be the only challenge for local schools this week. Cassellius noted that there could be issues with transportation due to a shortage of drivers, she told the TV station.

“I do anticipate that we will see transportation delays and shortages during this week,” Cassellius said, according to NBC 10. “This is historically a challenging time of year as bus drivers return from their vacations and so it is historically a difficult week for us with bus transportation like this.”

According to WBUR, Boston schools have a pool of 105 stand-by replacement drivers. The superintendent also reminded parents to check their “Where’s My School Bus” transportation app for updates about bus routes, according to the station.

The state prohibited school districts from closing schools to offer remote learning this year, according to the Globe. Any unapproved days spent in remote learning won’t count toward the state’s mandatory instructional hours.

Gov. Charlie Baker told the Globe Monday that having the vast majority of schools open in Massachusetts was “incredibly important” and a “positive sign about the hard work that so many people around the commonwealth are doing every single day to make sure kids get the education that they’re entitled to and that they deserve.”

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Still, according to the Globe, at least nine school districts — LawrenceBrookline, Lexington, Burlington, Ipswich, Randolph, Wareham, Shawsheen Valley Technical, and Sharon — canceled classes Monday.

Brookline closed because it didn’t “have the staffing capacity to operate safely,” Superintendent Linus Guillory Jr. said in a message posted on the district’s website.

The district planned to announce Monday whether it could open schools Tuesday, according to MassLive.

Cambridge delayed the start of school for two days to allow time for students to be tested Monday and their results to return Tuesday, according to the Globe.

According to the paper, some Cambridge families waited two hours in the cold for their child to get tested, though those results weren’t required to return to school.

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