Springfield Public Schools’ lack of in-person learning helps other districts return to in-person learning

Published: Jan. 24, 2022 at 6:48 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Springfield Public Schools were out on Monday because of the high number of illnesses among students and staff.

Classes will be virtual for the rest of the week starting on Tuesday.

Last week before Springfield shut down in-person classes, school officials said 528 students and 218 staff members were out with COVID-19.

Ironically with the largest district in the state out, it was easier for other area schools to get back to in-person learning today.

For instance, Willard and Republic, after going to virtual learning classes last week, returned to in-person seated classes on Monday in part because they were able to add enough substitute teachers.

And because many area schools get their substitute teachers from the same service as Springfield Public Schools (Penmac Education Staffing), SPS’ absence from in-person learning this week is less of a drain on Penmac’s sources which allows surrounding schools to fill a higher percentage of their sub-openings.

“One of the factors in us making the decision to come back seated was that Springfield was out this week,” said Willard Assistant Superintendent of Academics Dr. Shane Dublin. “That certainly adds to our sub-pool and helps us fill those staff shortages.”

“It certainly increases the percentage of substitutes that we can get,” added Republic Superintendent Matt Pearce. “Last week when we had to hit the pause button we were down in the 40 percent-area of substitute-fill rate. Today we’re up in the 80′s so that’s certainly more doable and allows the adults in the buildings to do their normal jobs working with kids.”

And just like the healthcare industry, school districts have had employees doing double-duty during the pandemic to try and keep operations going. But continuing to spread resources thin takes an emotional and physical toll after a while that finally led to last week’s shutdowns of in-person classes.

“Having unfilled classroom absences really puts that burden and stress on our current staff,” Dublin pointed out. “And we just didn’t feel like that was sustainable.”

“Our teachers, paraprofessionals, aides, secretaries, and leaders are all filling in the gaps where they’re needed,” Pearce said. “That’s fine and dandy. But keeping that up going on day-after-day eventually wears those people out and last week we got to a point where we could hardly get that done for one day.”

While the pandemic has been dragging on for almost two years now the problem with school staffing is worse than ever.

“This last two weeks was one of the hardest, most challenging times to fill,” Dublin said.

And even though some schools are back to in-person classes, the situation remains very fluid and can change at any moment...just like it did last week.

“There’s no rhyme-or-reason to it except we’ve got to have enough adults-bus drivers, teachers, paraprofessionals, aides, custodians- to run the school district,” Pearce said.

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