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City schools close over COVID-19 issues, teacher shortage

YOUNGSTOWN — Student absences, forced COVID-19 quarantines and teacher shortages have Youngstown City Schools opting to close their buildings to students today and Tuesday, in advance of the planned Thanksgiving break.

Jeremy Batchelor, chief of staff for the school district, said in a prepared media release Sunday evening, the district has seen a significant number of COVID-19 quarantine cases, as well as additional student absences.

Combined with substitute teacher shortages, the district is opting to utilize professional learning days this week in advance of Thanksgiving break.

Recently, Youngstown City School District CEO Justin Jennings said the city school district has seen its need for substitute teachers double from pre-pandemic needs.

“Before the pandemic, our school buildings averaged one to two substitute teachers per day,” CEO Justin Jennings said recently. “We now are averaging three to four substitutes per day.”

In addition to having an increased need, Jennings described it harder to find substitutes.

“There’s a major need for substitutes, not only in Youngstown, but in districts across the region, the state, and, really the country,” Jennings said. “A lot of our substitutes traditionally have been older, and they may not want to expose themselves to the virus.”

Jennings recalled having 10 teachers absent one week from one of the district’s high schools and an additional nine teachers absent from a middle school.

The district now has 68 substitutes available for its use.

Part of the difficulty in finding and keeping substitute teachers is the fact that every school district in the Mahoning Valley is pulling from the same pool of available substitutes, Jennings said.

While the district buildings are shut down this week, facilities will undergo “deep cleaning.” Also, staff members will engage in virtual professional development opportunities.

Classes will resume in person Nov. 29, according to the media statement.

news@vindy.com

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