Teachers grow tired dealing with pandemic, historic substitute shortages, staff absences

MEDFORD, Ore. — As the fifth school semester of the pandemic begins, it’s no surprise — teachers are tired and feeling burnt out. The substitute teacher pool is small and administrators are stepping in to fill that gap.

“The omicron surge has been, has been very challenging,” said Medford School District Superintendent Bret Champion. He said so much weight has been placed on educators in the middle of historic sub shortages and staff absences. And it’s not just affecting teachers in the Medford School District.

“I would say that they are tired, they are. They are getting to a point where it’s difficult, and we know that it’s not sustainable,” said Tree Rivers School District Deputy Superintendent Casey Alderson. He said the Three Rivers School District has been able to help unlicensed staff get their teaching licenses to help out as substitutes. “We have to take care of our staff, staff need to take care of themselves before we can take care of others. So it really is a challenge right now, in order to get through this pandemic,” said Alderson.

Last week, TRSD proposed two extra wellness days off for its staff. Superintendent Dave Valenzuela wants to extend spring break with an extra at the beginning and the end, for teachers to recharge.

The most important thing for these school districts is to simply keep their doors open. So far, they’ve been able to succeed. “We saw that, in the early days of this pandemic, being at home is not something that is great for our kids,” said Champion. But that is not to say some schools haven’t been forced to do some distanced learning.

Ashland High School is returning Monday after 2 weeks off campus. On Thursday and Friday, three cohorts of eighth graders at McLoughlin Middle School went to Canvas-based learning due to staff shortages caused by COVID-related issues. Those students are expected to come back to school Monday.

Principal Kalin Cross sent out this letter on Wednesday notifying parents and families:

Dear McLoughlin Families,
Due to staff shortages caused by COVID-related issues and/or requirements, students on teams 81, 82, and 83 will be utilizing Canvas-based learning from home tomorrow and Friday. There will be no in-person learning Thursday, Jan. 27 and Friday, Jan. 28 for students on teams 81, 82, and 83. We hope to be back to full in-school learning on Monday, January 31.
We know this is an inconvenience and challenge for many families and for that we deeply apologize. This decision is based on student safety and our ability to provide proper supervision for our students.
Students not on teams 81, 82, and 83 will continue to attend classes on-campus tomorrow and Friday.
Students on teams 81, 82, and 83 should log into Canvas tomorrow morning where lessons will be posted to each class page to complete throughout the day. Attendance will be taken on a Google form. We expect school to resume normally on Monday, January 31. We will let you know if that is not the case.
Please help us continue in-person learning by not sending your student to school if they are sick or if they have been exposed to COVID-19. If a family member in the household has COVID-19, students should be quarantined unless they are vaccinated, have had COVID-19 in the last 90 days, or the ill individual is fully isolated from the student.
Thank you for your continued support.
If you have questions, please reach out at 541-842-3720.
Sincerely,
Kalin Cross
Principal

“We all recognize that folks are working tirelessly to make this happen. I hope parents recognize what teachers and principals and our classified educators on schools are doing to keep our doors open,” said Champion.

Both superintendents said the biggest difference you can make is by sincerely thanking your children’s educators. Champion also urges parents to pay close attention to any symptoms their children may have and to keep them home if they display any.

If you’re wanting to help out in the classroom there are several openings, just reach out to the HR department of any school district.

Madison LaBerge is the anchor of NBC5 News Weekends at 6 and 11. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Madison is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She loves living in the Pacific Northwest. She can't get over "how green everything is!" When Madison is not at work, she looks for new and exciting cooking recipes and explores Southern Oregon. Feel free to send her story ideas or the address of your favorite Mexican food restaurant!
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