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Search for school substitutes during omicron surge

Posted at 6:32 PM, Jan 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-17 07:16:28-05

TULSA, Okla. — Broken Arrow schools announced today it will go to distance learning all next week because of the continued surge in COVID-19 cases due to omicron and other reasons.

Many schools made distance learning adjustments this week as a result of staffing shortages.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, school districts are constantly adjusting. However, many are having a harder time finding enough personnel to manage the classrooms impacted by the staff absences.
“With the Omicron variant seeming to be more contagious seeming to be more contagious and spreading more rapidly, we’ve been hit pretty hard by staffing shortages, just like everybody else in the area,” Rob Loeber, director of communications at Jenks Public Schools.

Jenks schools are among many experiencing staffing disruptions because of the omicron surge. Broken Arrow schools pivoted to distance learning Friday after 710 of its more than 2,300 employees called out because of illness and other reasons.

They say this is an all-time high number not seen before in the district. The district said it needed at least 97 subs but was only able to find 42.

Jenks, though, was able to avoid transitioning all of its district to distance learning this week.

“The sites that we decided to transition to distance learning had anywhere between a 20 and a 25 percent staff absence rate earlier in the week and those numbers were consistently growing from the beginning of the week so we had to make that difficult decision to transition most of our sites to distance learning for the rest of the week,”Loeber said.

Sand Springs schools also transitioned to distance learning some this week because of absences due to flu, COVID-19 illness, and COVID-19 testing delays.

Union Schools are reporting 28 percent out due to COVID-19 or other reasons. The district even considered a faith-based community outreach program asking for volunteers who could help manage merged classes with certified teachers. Union, however, put that idea on hold due to the spike in cases.

Union Public School leaders said they will inform parents about plans next week on Sunday night.

Loeber said the Jenks substitute pool was already being depleted before the pandemic, but Omicron has reduced it even more.

He said on any given day, only 30 percent of Jenks Public Schools subs are available.

“Now that our sub pool has been diminished as well, and by people sick with family members or themselves, then that makes it even more difficult to fill those numbers with our normal sub pool,” Loeber said.

Loeber said transitioning to distance learning is always their last resort, but that decision is made with the student safety and interest as a top priority.

“Having classes that cannot be covered, or having someone cover those classes that may not be qualified is not in our mind a good option for instruction for our students so those are kind of the main reasons to move to distance learning," Loeber said.

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