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Omicron continues to batter schools, with staffing shortages forcing many to close

Wichita isn’t unique in Kansas: Schools in Olathe, Kansas City, Eudora, Desoto, Manhattan-Ogden, Bonner Springs, and El Dorado have also had recent closures because of high COVID-19 rates.

In Alabama, one in four students were on remote learning last week, and many schools in the state remained remote in the days following Martin Luther King Day. Elmore County, Alabama, was returning to in-person school on Tuesday, but anticipated school bus delays “due to a shortage of drivers and substitute drivers. This situation may continue for the duration of the COVID spike.”

Two school districts in Hancock County, Indiana, have shifted to distance learning, one of them with a staff absence rate hitting 19%. Schools didn’t even have enough teachers to do remote teaching; rather, students were accessing assignments online and doing them from home. But hey, a day of canceled school plus a long weekend plus the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s revised five-day isolation period means teachers should be coming back. 

“The nice thing with the five days is that we can get teachers back to work sooner,” a school official said. Yeah, gee, really nice. 

Two districts in the San Antonio, Texas, area closed for part or all of the week, with one saying the closure would give students and staff time to “restore their health.” 

”Closing schools is a difficult decision to make, and I apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause. However, to mitigate the spread of this virus has lead us to this decision,” said the superintendent of the other district. “As able, our teachers will be providing educational resources for the next two days or until this school closure ends.”

Neither district requires masks in schools.

Schools in Fulton, Missouri, were closed Tuesday, with at least one potentially remaining closed Wednesday.

The school superintendent in Couer d’Alene, Idaho, recently warned parents to be prepared for schools to temporarily close after a week in which one in six teachers needed a substitute, and on at least one day, only 60% of teacher absences could be covered by the available substitutes.

These are not states in which either Democrats or unions have a tight grip on policy. And indeed, school closures or temporary transitions to virtual learning are not a matter of policy right now. They are a matter of numbers: the number of teachers and staff (very much including bus drivers) either sick or quarantined, the number of students either sick or quarantined. Yet the steady stream of local news stories about these closures is met with a loud debate in the national media over whether schools should go remote and who is to blame when they do. (The virus. The virus is to blame.) Virtually nobody—or, to be specific, a majority of absolutely no group—thinks that remote learning is ideal for kids. Or for teachers, for that matter. The question is what is safe and, lately, what is even possible under the circumstances. Anyone who wants to talk about schools without acknowledging the reality should face serious questions about their motives.

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