Schools Scramble to Find Enough Teachers to Staff Classrooms Amid Omicron Spread

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The omicron variant has exploded as kids head back to school, leaving districts scrambling to find enough teachers to staff classrooms.

In the San Francisco Unified School District, they’ve never seen anything like it. More than 400 classrooms needed to be covered Tuesday, with many teachers testing positive for COVID-19’s omicron variant, while others are still trying to navigate nationwide flight cancellations while returning from holiday trips. 

A teacher substitute shortage meant that only 150 were available, leaving 250 classrooms with no instructor.

“Many times when schools have that situation they will be able to cover in-house but not with numbers like that,” said San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Vincent Matthews. “So what we did was we deployed central office personnel including myself out to cover classrooms.”

Teacher prep time was cancelled, it was all hands on deck. 

Matthews rushed to Everett Middle School to teach sixth grade science.

“People either say you love middle school or you don’t, but it’s just a great level,” he said. “I absolutely love it and I had a fantastic time with the kids.”

The Oakland Unified School District reports 900 students and teachers tested positive Monday, and the district now is eagerly awaiting more COVID tests from the state .

“I know the state continues to distribute test to additional districts across California and we are excited about that but we look forward to getting more from the state when they become available,” said John Sasaki, Oakland Unified spokesperson.

In Marin County, no fans in the stands at sporting events, and no indoor assemblies. That is the County Public Health Officer‘s recommendation to slow the spread of omicron. But the games go on, for now.

“We really see the value of kids playing sports. We know that it reduces the isolation and keeps them motivated for coming to school,” said J.C. Farr. Principal at Tamalpais High School.

Some parents and student athletes understand.

“It’s definitely disappointing but I think for the safety of the community and for them it’s the right thing to do,” said Alisahah Jackson of Mill Valley.

“It’s gonna take some getting used to but I think for safety we can all get used to it so we can get back to having fans and parents in the stands,” said Auvin Cole.

There were no fans in the stands Tuesday, but there will be students and teachers in the classrooms at Tamalpais High School for the first time since the Christmas break. Principal Farr says his staff will try to be ready for anything.

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