In an effort to retain "burned out" teachers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, school districts across the country are reportedly canceling classes or going fully remote once again with little notice for parents, leaving many scrambling to find child care.
What are the details?
Last month, TheBlaze reported that Detroit public schools had responded to a surge in COVID-19 cases by adopting fully remote Fridays for the month of December.
Since then, according to the New York Times, districts in other states such as Florida, Oregon, Utah, and Washington have followed suit, though not always to combat the virus. Instead, the districts are reportedly hoping to convince disgruntled teachers to stay on staff.
"After a few months of relative calm, some public schools are going remote — or canceling classes entirely — for a day a week, or even for a couple of weeks, because of teacher burnout or staff shortages," the Times reported this week.
At least six other districts in Michigan extended days off during Thanksgiving break, while three districts in Washington state abruptly closed on Friday, Nov. 12, due to staff shortages. Meanwhile, in Florida, one district reportedly used leftover reserve "hurricane days" to close schools for an entire week.
In Utah, one district recently announced that from November until March, schools would go remote on Fridays once a month. In perhaps the most shocking development, a middle school near Portland, Oregon, decided to cancel classes from Nov. 17 until Dec. 7 due to "fights and outbursts" from students — and gave parents just two days' notice.
Why are they doing it?
The Times reported that districts cited various reasons for the schedule changes related to the pandemic, from rising infection rates to the need to sanitize classrooms.
"But for many schools," the report stated, "the remote learning days — an option that did not exist before the pandemic — are a last-ditch effort to keep teachers from resigning. They are burned out, educators said, after a year of trying to help students through learning loss, and working overtime to make up for labor shortages."
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten told the paper that battles in the classrooms over mask mandates and critical race theory have taken a toll on the nation's educators.
“What you hear from teachers is that it’s been too much,” she said. “And they’re trying the best that they can.”
Weingarten previously made a similar claim in May, arguing that teachers were "tired and exhausted" amid the pandemic despite being home for months during the first year. She added that "we have to find a way to repair and nourish" those teachers — and was swiftly lampooned online.
Why does it matter?
Whatever the benefit for the nation's teachers, the Times reported that many parents are frustrated, and even "furious," over the renewed cancellations.
Due to the short notice in many cases, working parents have been forced to take off work or otherwise reorder their schedules to care for their children. Some parents told the paper that abrupt closures have left them "scrambling" to find child care.
Others are concerned that the schedule disruptions will result in their children falling further behind academically. Last year, nearly nine in ten parents expressed as much in a survey. Their concerns have been backed up by studies showing students falling behind significantly, especially in math and science.