Exhausted and Understaffed: Why More School Closings Are Coming 

Is the future remote?

A "closed" sign in front of a public elementary school in Grand Rapids, Michigan in March 2020. Michigan closed all schools in an effort to thwart the spread of the novel coronavirus.
A "closed" sign in front of a public elementary school in Grand Rapids, Michigan in March 2020. Michigan closed all schools in an effort to thwart the spread of the novel coronavirus.

School closings happen for many reasons—bad weather, renovations, tragedies, and yes, even pandemics. When the time was right, though, we’d always rally and find our way back to the classroom. Things are different now. America’s schools are critically understaffed, and we’re all exhausted. In multiple states, including Colorado, Michigan, and Florida, schools are going remote to deal with the shortages. Is this a sign of things to come?

Teachers are stretched too thin

As schools across the nation are forced to shut down temporarily or return to remote learning, it’s clear that our educational system is reaching a breaking point. The buses are driverless, making it hard for kids to even get to school. Those who make it to class may not have food to eat during the day, though, because our cafeterias are short on supplies and staff. It’s become a crisis for some schools.

Teachers in our Facebook community opened up about the challenges they’ve been facing this school year:

  • “We had 18 teachers out today. Admin just herded the kids into the auditorium.” —Christina M.
  • “1/3 of our teaching staff was out today. It was a mess, but they kept school open! Pulled warm bodies from every corner to cover classrooms. Ridiculous.” —Anita P.O.
  • “Our school hired online teachers to teach the students that are at school in the classroom, because we do not have enough teachers.” —Jettie M.W.

The Great Resignation saw the departure of both full-time and substitute teachers, while battles over vaccines and mask mandates, fights at school board meetings, and coronavirus fears have left our classrooms empty and/or struggling. What may have started as a problem in one district or one state has quickly turned into a widespread nightmare with no end in sight.


Schools are shutting their doors


Kids are already dealing with missed learning opportunities, a lack of extracurricular activities, and emotional distress. Now, last-minute schedule changes are sweeping through this country’s school districts, leaving parents and students scrambling. While some schools are taking extended breaks around holidays, others are starting to shut down in-person classes altogether.

Our community of teachers also shared what they’ve been seeing at work and as parents:

  • “My son’s school called last week and told us school would be closed today due to lack of subs. Where I teach, school was changed to PD since they figured most staff or students and wouldn’t come after Veterans day off.” —Danielle J.B.
  • “My kids’ district went remote for two weeks because they didn’t have any bus drivers.” —Sherri B.J.
  • “We haven’t had it happen yet, but just got an email about the potential for it yesterday. Our class has run two staff short today and yesterday, and our union is looking into the numbers for safety.” —Beth M.K.
  • “We were out a few days because we were short bus drivers and now we are in-line due to lack of kitchen staff 🙁.” —Amanda H.

Why is this happening? Teachers are burnt out from trying to teach during a pandemic, and staffing shortages that have existed for years are getting much, much worse. On top of that, disease prevention measures are inconsistent or absent entirely. Staff and kids are getting sick, but with public-policy battles raging on, no one knows how to truly manage the situation.

What’s happening in your school?

You’ve heard from our community of teachers who shared their experiences with school closures and virtual learning. We’d love to hear from you, too, so please head over to our Facebook page and weigh in.

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Exhausted and Understaffed: Why More School Closings Are Coming