FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The omicron-driven COVID-19 surge appears to be forcing teachers to stay home.
Broward County’s interim public schools superintendent called it a significant number that didn’t show up Monday as students returned from the holiday break.
“Due to COVID-19 and the omicron variant, today we have 1,644 teachers as of 6:30 this morning that called out,” Vickie Cartwright said.
The interim superintendent said it’s typically about 1,200 teachers who call out on the first day back from winter break.
In Miami-Dade County, 2,110 instructional personnel, including counselors, were out Monday. That’s compared to 1,333 on the first day back in 2021.
Miami-Dade’s student attendance was at 82.4%, compared to 88.8% on the return date last January.
Because of the pandemic, Broward’s school district is already struggling with its substitute teacher pool. So they’re assigning personnel who are not typically in the classroom to go back.
“If things continue to get worse, we will hit that point to where more than likely we’re going to have to double up some more of our classrooms,” Cartwright said.
Because of new state laws, districts are limited in what they can do when it comes to COVID safety protocols like masking.
Students cannot be forced to wear them.
But at North Miami Senior High, we found some who still do.
“I hope they wear one,” one student said. “‘Cause it’s really important and I don’t want to catch COVID.”
A group of parents whose kids have underlying health issues and who are suing Gov. Ron De Santis now hope a judge will allow them to amend their lawsuit given the ongoing surge and the state laws that ban mask and vaccine mandates.
“It’s scary to think that these children that may be the most vulnerable may be the first to die,” attorney Matt Dietz said.
Last week, outgoing Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho sent DeSantis and the state’s commissioner of education a letter asking for guidance in light of the omicron-driven surge.
Cartwright is asking the governor for resources that could help alleviate the staffing issues.
“When you don’t have staff, and when you don’t have bodies to put into the classroom, how do we operate?” she said.
She’s also asking for patience from parents who may see some delays in transportation after 122 Broward bus drivers called out sick Monday, forcing the district to double 91 routes.