UCDSB warns schools could close as growing numbers of teachers away with symptoms, awaiting test results

Tagwi Secondary School in North Stormont. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

BROCKVILLE — The Upper Canada School Board says its schools could be forced to temporarily close — and other classes cancelled — if it can’t secure adequate substitute staff to replace teachers who are away with COVID-19 symptoms and awaiting test results.

In a Facebook post and website letter this afternoon, the Board says it requires 500 substitute staff on “most days” now, and that finding individuals to pick up the slack “is becoming increasingly difficult.” Schools are consequently left short-staffed with 150 positions often going unfilled at this point in the pandemic, according to the Board, which points to the length of teacher absences as a major contributing factor. “When a teacher is required to self-isolate for 14 days, an occasional teacher is needed for all of those days.”

The Board says it is actively recruiting to bolster its occasional teacher list, currently numbering 650 individuals — not all of whom are available to work every day. The effort includes “interviewing and hiring teachers for long-term occasional work, bringing back retired staff members, and redeploying central staff when possible.”

It warns that classes may need to be cancelled if a school can’t find adequate staff and, “in extreme cases” and as a “last resort,” a school may need to close “until we have enough staff to be fully operational. If this happens, parents/guardians would not be able to send their children to school.”

The Board says that parents will be notified as soon as possible if a school has been temporarily closed — but possibly as late as 6:30 a.m. on a school day. “We ask that parents/guardians begin to consider their plans for alternative child care so that they are prepared should this happen.”

The Upper Canada District School Board has to date had only one case of COVID-19.

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