Local school districts deal with rising cases & staff shortages

Local News

WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — With the surge in COVID-19 cases, school districts all over are re-evaluating their options yet again during the pandemic.

Vernon ISD saw closures due to staffing shortages and City View ISD is dealing with a drop in attendance due to sick days from teachers to students.

“Today was a day that we came really close,” City View ISD Superintendent Tony Bushong said.

Luckily, with about 80% of its 80-teacher staff present, Bushong said they were able to hold off closures.

Something Vernon ISD couldn’t avoid, closing their doors four of the five days, but comes at a nice time with them already having two extra days off next week with staff days and the stock shows.

“That gave us eight days to where we could get everything cleaned and families could stay in quarantined and be safe and it would give our teachers who are quarantined to get better and return to work,” Vernon ISD Superintendent Jeff Byrd said.

But while they are currently managing there’s a lot of school left and not very many subs.

“Every superintendent I’ve talked to has said the same thing, we don’t have enough substitutes,” Bushong said. “We’ve never had enough substitutes but right now due to COVID its definitely worse.”

“The substitute shortage I don’t think is anything brand new to this area, especially in rural West Texas,” Byrd said.

A new reality school districts all over are still adjusting too.

“I think school districts just need to have a plan in place for these weeks that we are going to see these surges,” Bushong said.

Moving forward, Byrd and Vernon are optimistic about the plan they have in place.

“We at Vernon ISD have been shutdown four days this week and we still have somewhere between two and a half and four days in the event of us having the same emergency when we return from spring break,” Byrd said.

And the attendance rates dropping with cases rising across the state, coupled with more days missed, hurts funding for all these local school districts.

Bushong hopes to receive some of that guidance from TEA to ease the burden of unpredictability during the pandemic.

“When you’re down that much, we’re talking about thousands of dollars that we are losing,” Bushong said. “And we’ve heard nothing from the state and we need some answers.”

Superintendent Byrd anticipates Vernon will be staffed and ready to go by Wednesday as previously scheduled and Bushong attributes staff flexibility to being able to not close any school’s doors!

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