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Schools Across the US See Last-Minute Closures Over COVID-19 Staffing Problems

Jack Phillips

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Schools across the United States over the weekend announced last-minute closures due to the spread of COVID-19.

Students in a number of districts are slated to return to class on Monday morning from the winter break. Some districts blamed the closures on staffing issues or the rise in cases driven by the Omicron variant.

In Massachusetts, more than a dozen separate school districts were closed or delayed opening on Monday, Jan. 3, with officials citing the spread of COVID-19 and some snowfall.

Also on Monday, in another example, the Pittsburgh Public Schools announced it is shuttering 12 schools due to staffing shortages caused by COVID-19, WXPI reported.

A local infectious disease expert who was interviewed by the local station said that it’s “inevitable that we’re going to see cases in the school” but stipulated closures “can’t be tolerated.”

“We have rapid tests, we’ve got antivirals, we have vaccines, we have monoclonal antibodies, and we have best practices that occurred in the pre-pandemic era, so there really is no excuse for schools to be going virtual at this point, in 2022, in the pandemic,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja in response to the closures Monday.

Several Connecticut school districts are also closing due to COVID-19 cases and staffing shortages, local media reported. Transportation problems due to staffing shortfalls was also cited by officials as a reason for the closures.

Districts including Region 14, Enfield, Stratford, and Stonington public schools were shuttered Monday after the holiday break, reports said.

Milwaukee Public Schools in Wisconsin will launch a virtual learning program on Tuesday amid school closures. However, the system is aiming to restart normal classes on Jan. 10.

“MPS was scheduled to resume in-person learning on January 4, 2022, but due to an influx of reported positive COVID-19 cases among district staff, this emergency safety measure is being implemented,” said an announcement from the Milwaukee Public Schools.

And the School District of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, shut down classes for students Monday due to COVID-19-related issues. But teachers and other staff members have to return back to work, WGAL-TV reported.

The district said it expects to bring students back to class starting Tuesday.

In New Jersey, some Jersey Shore schools cited surging COVID-19 cases in combination with a snowstorm that is expected to dump several inches of snow across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast for closing down on Monday.

While most of the nation’s largest school districts, including districts in New York City and Los Angeles, have decided to remain open, it’s possible that one of the largest districts in the U.S.—Chicago Public Schools—may revert back to distance learning in the coming days amid demands from the Chicago Teachers Union.

“Our union proposes Mayor [Lori] Lightfoot and her CPS team must put mitigations in place—including COVID-19 testing—by Jan. 3 to ensure safety as classes resume,” Chicago Teachers Union Local 1 said in a statement last week. “If mitigations are not in place, in-person learning must be paused so the district can implement proper safety measures.”

Public and private schools in Los Angeles County have to mandate wearing masks outside in crowded spaces, and teachers and other staff are now required to wear high-grade masks when returning to class after the winter break, according to a Sunday announcement from the Los Angeles Health Department.