Staffing shortages in schools across the country are forcing classes to be canceled and maintenance and cafeteria duties to be done by students, leaving school officials scrambling and parents incensed.
Schools in five states have canceled classes because of short-staffing, with many schools across the U.S. canceling classes on Friday, extending Veterans Day to a four-day weekend, according to Fox News. Schools in some areas have already reverted to remote learning temporarily while they cope with the shortages. School Boards attributed the shortages to fatigue felt by teachers and students because of the return to in-person learning after the COVID-19 pandemic forced remote instruction.
“There’s an overwhelming sense of exhaustion,” said Amie Baca-Oehler, President of the Colorado Education Association.
“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,” she told USA Today, via Fox News.
Parents, inconvenienced by the sudden cancellations and forced to make childcare arrangements, were outraged. “They care about themselves more than they care about the kids,” one parent told a local news outlet after a school in Pennsylvania canceled classes.
“It would have been great if it would have been on the calendar from the beginning,” said a parent after the San Diego Unified school district announced a “mental health day” on Friday amid the shortage. “The parents I talked to all felt like ‘here we go again’ with just that regular stress of trying to manage childcare.” The district backed off the plan after pushback.
Data from Education Week, cited by Fox News, showed that 25% of school officials consider their staffing situation “severe,” with another 15% who consider them “very severe.” Another 18% said their shortages were either “mild” or “very mild.” Just 5% said they did not have a staffing issue.
One school district in Maryland is short 161 teachers and more than 100 aides. The teachers that remain are skipping lunch breaks to cover classes, all the while dealing with loss of learning and mental health issues due to school lockdowns.
“What I’m concerned is the potential for a great resignation,” Montgomery County Education Association president Jennifer Martin told NBC 4, via Fox News.
Many schools are also seeing shortages of janitors, cafeteria staff, and bus drivers. One school district in Missouri, which has been dealing with staff shortages since 2020, has been forced to hire students to serve food and perform maintenance for the school. In Nevada, school principals are cleaning floors and serving food in the cafeteria. Bus driver shortages forced the State of Massachusetts to deploy the National Guard to drive students to school. A school district in Nashville, Tennessee, is bracing for a driver strike that will likely worsen the city’s issues.
Supply chain issues are also affecting schools’ ability to feed students. For example, one school district in Pennsylvania is experiencing significant supply issues, with food service staff going to grocery stores and warehouse suppliers to acquire food for students. “We are hoping that deliveries arrive so that we don’t have to adjust our menu to ensure that our students receive meals,” said Dimtra Barrios, the director of food service at Ridley School District, during an interview with Fox Business.
The Daily Wire previously reported that two school districts in Ohio are also struggling to provide school lunches to students amid the USDA’s expansion of the free school breakfast and lunch program and shortages on many food items.