NEW BLOOMFIELD, Mo. (KMIZ)
The New Bloomfield Board of Education made the call to move the district's middle and high school students online for one week, saying there are not enough substitute teachers.
The district was moved into "phase yellow" for one week and will reevaluate the situation on Thursday to decide about the next week.
Students will use Google classroom and be taught by district staff. Computers and hotspots are available for checkout at the high school. Breakfast and lunch will also be provided for pick up upon request.
In a press release, the Superintendant Sarah Wisdom said it "considers the education and well-being of our students and staff to be of the utmost importance," and that the move is because it believes the lack of substitutes would lessen the quality of education.
Elementary students will remain in the classroom as usual. The district emphasized the move is not because of active cases of COVID-19.
Throughout the district, 39 cases of the virus have been found. As of Friday, 6 of those cases are active. There are 738 students currently enrolled K-12 in New Bloomfield schools, with total of 103 staff members.
Wisdom went on to say a variety of issues with staffing went into the decision to move to virtual learning, not just COVID-19 related matters.
If I had five subs today, we would be able to stay in seat. The teacher absences are not just COVID, but a couple are. Other sickness, life events and happenings that need attention have not stopped. This coupled with quarantine, a very low sub-pool (we use Kelly Services, same as JC) and COVID all have been factors.Sarah Wisdom, Superintendent of New Bloomfield R-III Schools
State Lead for Kelly Services Keith Elliott said the substitute teaching pool has been shrinking for years, and COVID-19 is taking even more a toll on their numbers.
"School districts are having a harder time finding teachers to come in and take full-time jobs," Elliott said. "A lot of the subs that we recruit, we hire, we train are now being pulled into full-time opportunities, which is kinda decreasing what's available out there for substitute teaching."
He said many of the substitute teachers they represent in Mid-Missouri are retired teachers, who are at a higher risk for severe COVID-19 infection.
"We've seen a lot of hesitancy this year for our substitutes to get back in the classroom," Elliot said. "We heard from a lot of them early this year that they were going to take a wait and see approach kinda seeing how other school districts approached it and what the results were of students returning to classrooms.
This has become a statewide issue. Jefferson City will also continue online education at the middle school level through the next week, citing a lack of substitute teachers and staffing issues.
"We are starting to see some subs starting to return but still a lot of hesitancy out there, especially from that older population that seems to be the more at-risk population," Elliot said.
Ciara Wright, a parent of New Bloomfield students in all three schools, said her main concern for virtual learning is getting her middle schooler to pay attention while at home.
"I was a little shocked when we got the email saying we were going to phase yellow because of the fact I know he struggled getting his homework in and having to fight with him day in and day out," Wright said. "He'd sneak on games or whatever instead of doing his work."
She also mentioned explaining to her elementary student that her siblings can stay home while she has to go to school may be an issue. Wright said the school district has been handling the pandemic as well as they can.
"I think they are doing all that that can, which is all that we can ask," Wright said.