Shortages hit CMS as teacher, school bus driver absences mount

CHARLOTTE — Across the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district, more than 1,000 teachers missed classes last week, Channel 9 has learned.

CMS said 400 substitutes had to fill in and the district also dealt with shortages of nearly 150 cafeteria workers and almost 100 bus drivers.

Channel 9 learned that on Monday, CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston stepped in to help Eastway Middle School due to shortages. Central office staff has also helped cover classes or other roles.

CMS parent Stacy Staggs said she’s worried about the quality and the consistency of her twin daughters’ education as teachers get shuffled amid the omicron surge and staffing shortages. She also worries for her friends who are educators.

“I think everyone is concerned about what’s happening in the school buildings in terms of the school buildings and physical safety,” Staggs said. “What I hear consistently is it’s worse than anyone imagines. They are past their breaking point and really looking for leadership to acknowledge and have concrete plans in place.”

A national teacher shortage has hit almost every district, forcing many to use full-time substitutes. Now with massive absences, there simply aren’t enough subs.

A CMS representative told Channel 9′s Elsa Gillis that the district is issuing an all-call for substitutes.

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An ominous warning

CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston said Tuesday night that it is inevitable that teaching and learning will be impacted significantly if the virus remains on its current trend.

He said from Jan. 3 to Jan. 9, more than 1,200 students tested positive for COVID and 1,800 are quarantining. Winston also said more than 600 staff members tested positive and another 689 are in quarantine.

Winston went on to say that over the past several days, the district has averaged more than 1,000 teacher absences, with only enough substitutes to cover less than 50% of them.

It’s also sober news for transportation. Winston said that for several days, the district has had between 120 and 145 bus drivers absent or on leave. CMS is running double runs or combined routes and as a result, 15- to 30-minute delays can be expected.

Winston said the capacity to cover transportation routes is approaching the maximum.

‘Saying that schools need to be open is not a plan to keep schools open’

In Cabarrus County, board member Keisha Sandidge posted that more than 100 staff members were out Friday, but there were no substitutes to pull from. She’s asked parents to show appreciation for their teachers.

Michelle Floyd said her grandson’s daycare has closed after a positive case, but schools are pressing forward.

“We use sick time and vacation time to be home with him, anytime there is a shutdown,” Floyd said.

State legislation prevents entire districts from going to all-virtual, but individual schools could. Parents, like Staggs, are asking when that might be.

“Not having a plan that is clearly communicated and kind of just letting it roll is terrifying, and we are past the point where it’s not sustainable. It’s dangerous. There’s a physical safety risk in not having enough adults in the building,” Staggs said. “Saying that schools need to be open is not a plan to keep schools open.”

Channel 9 anchor Genevieve Curtis had reached out to CMS for answers on how to handle staffing shortages.

This week, Union County is holding an information session for anyone interested in getting an alternative license to become a teacher. That’s Thursday evening, and anyone interested can register now.

>> For more on Senate Bill 654, which prevents districts from moving to remote learning long-term, click here.

NC school bus service suspended due to driver COVID-19 cases

High school students in two North Carolina cities won’t be able to ride school buses for at least two weeks because a large number of drivers are temporarily out of work after testing positive for COVID-19.

The News & Record of Greensboro reports that Guilford County Schools said Friday that 76 of the district’s drivers are out of work with the virus. Superintendent Sharon Contreras said those absences come on top of the district’s pre-existing driver shortage.

Contreras said local government leaders have agreed to give free rides on Greensboro and High Point city buses to students who show their student ID. Parents are also being asked to take their children to school if possible.

Students with special needs who have transportation as part of their individualized education plan will be able to continue to use district school buses.

Contreras said parents have emphasized how damaging past COVID-19 school closures were for students and want to keep that from happening again.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

(WATCH BELOW: Michigan governor signs bill to allow secretaries and bus drivers to work as substitute teachers)

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