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Darby opts for distance learning to address short staff, bus driver shortage

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Darby opts for distance learning to address short staff, bus driver shortage

The Darby School District opted for distance learning through Wednesday after being faced with a shortage of teachers, substitutes and bus drivers. 

Faced with a shortage of teachers, substitutes and bus drivers due to illness, the Darby School District opted to take advantage of a short week to move to remote learning through Wednesday.

No public school classes will be held statewide on Thursday and Friday due to annual educator conferences.

Darby was one of three schools in the state to either move to remote learning or close to provide some time for staff to get healthy and slow the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.

“Unfortunately, Darby School has reached a point where we do not have enough employees to operate the school,” Superintendent Chris Toynbee wrote to families on Monday. “We lack teachers, paraprofessionals and bus drivers and we don’t have enough substitutes to continue to keep our doors open.”

Glasgow closed its schools Monday through Wednesday due to substitute shortages. Livingston’s school board voted last week to hold middle and high school classes virtually beginning Oct. 13, in part to give county health officials time to contact trace COVID-19 cases.

On Tuesday, Toynbee said the shortage of substitute teachers in the area led to the counselors, principals and even himself covering classes. Maintenance employees were asked to drive regular bus routes after bus drivers called in sick.

“We got to the point that we didn’t have a cushion,” Toynbee said. “If one more thing went wrong, we didn’t have anyone else to fall back on.”

The school is seeing cases of COVID-19, influenza, and some students with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

“We have cases of COVID but we have other things on top of that too,” Toynbee said. “We are hoping to be back to health next Monday when the staff and students return … We know this situation is stressful for people. It’s hard for people to take a day because they know there is no one to cover their classes for them.”

The school’s administration and staff had been preparing for the potential the school might have to revert to distance learning for a short period. Teachers had prepared lessons for Google Classroom, hotspots were offered to families and additional Chromebooks were made available.

The school continues to offer students breakfast and lunch from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The school is also offering mental health services.

“It’s all been pretty seamless,” Toynbee said.

The school is set to return to in-person learning on Monday, Oct. 25 if employees are healthy.

“If we are forced to continue with distance learning into next week, we will make that announcement before the end of this week to allow families the time to prepare,” Toynbee’s letter read. “We are sorry for the inconvenience but we do not have any other options at this time."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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