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Missouri schools face teacher and bus driver shortage

Fear surrounding Covid-19 will make it even harder for Missouri schools to fill staff positions this fall according to state news outlets. This even as CDC data shows children are the lowest-risk demographic for getting or spreading the disease.

Kelli Hopkins, associate executive director of the Missouri School Boards Association, expects the need for substitute bus drivers in rural Missouri school districts to be especially critical. To address social-distancing health guidelines, more buses and drivers could be required to transport kids.

READ: Governor says state must move forward with open schools

“This is huge for our rural districts because, of course, buses are how the children get to school,” she said. “And if you have to double the number of buses, it’s going to be a problem. If the virus continues to spread, we may have drivers that can’t drive because they’ve tested positive and they’re quarantined or because they have someone at home they have to care for. Same thing with substitute teachers.”

Missouri has 555 public school districts and charter schools. The changes could be a financial headache for many districts, especially the ones already facing money problems.

“There really are some creative folks out there in schools, working on staggered arrival times and alternate-day attendance and alternate-hour attendance,” Hopkins said. “Some come in here, go for these four hours; some they take them home and pick up another route, etc. All we’re talking about here is not just the logistics. The finances of it are incredible.”

Some Missouri parents might be ready for their kids to return to the classroom this fall, but whether teachers are comfortable returning during the COVID-19 pandemic could be a different story for some. Many schools have been surveying their parents and staff about their preferences on returning to school, learning remotely or something in between for the upcoming school year.

The fear, say many, is unfounded as only 14 individuals under the age of 18 have died across the nation as a result of Covid complications and studies show that children are much less likely to spread the disease than adults. Those children that died had underlying serious medical conditions. The CDC states that schools should reopen with appropriate safeguards.

“If my full-time job is a teacher and I’m too leery to come, I suspect someone who’s a substitute, who may be in multiple rooms with multiple children is going to be even maybe less excited about coming to work with students,” Hopkins said.

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice

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