Huge drop in substitute teachers could force changes at more Butler County districts

This week’s changing of in-person learning plans at some local schools signals the latest coronavirus course change other area school systems may soon follow, said local education leaders.

On Monday, officials at Madison Schools said they were forced to switch away from in-person classes for grades 9-12 because a school building administrator had tested positive for the coronavirus.

ExploreCoronavirus, water main break closing down Butler County high school

But it was the ripple effect of having to quarantine some teachers and school staffers – and some students – that forced the shut-down of live high school classes at Madison.

Moreover, the district suffers from a shortage of substitute teachers like many others in the area, making live, classroom instruction difficult if not impossible to continue.

Middletown Schools had planned for a change from all remote learning to a hybrid schedule and eventually resumption of all in-person classes on Nov. 9.

But hours after Madison Schools made their announcement, Middletown’s Board of Education voted Monday evening to delay any possible return to a live, five-days-a-week, classes until at least January.

ExploreMiddletown delays full return to in-person classes because of coronavirus cases and quarantines

The moves come amidst the recent and continued relatively high positive corona test tallies for Butler County and across Ohio.

But a lack of substitute teachers is also adding to the problems.

Madison officials released a statement echoing the dilemma.

“There is not an outbreak, only quite a few quarantines. Mostly, we are not able to have school because of a lack of substitute teachers,” said school officials.

Chris Brown, superintendent of the Butler County Educational Services Center, said the available number of substitute instructors who can fill in while teachers are out sick or forced to stay at home in quarantine is sharply down — about 20 percent — compared to past years.

“I am not surprised by the situation at Madison and would not be surprised if this occurs in other districts as we move through the year,” said Brown.

“The sub issue is a major problem and one that we expected. The number of subs is down this year and that number has been further reduced by many of the districts hiring full time subs for their buildings."

ExploreLocal districts worried about substitute teachers when schools reopen

Coronavirus' heightened risk for older people plays a role in the shortage, he said.

“The main issue is the fact that we employ many individuals who are retired teachers who may be in high risk populations and to ask them to go into a setting that may have people out due to COVID or simply quarantined because of COVID is not a chance folks are not willing to take,” said Brown.

As Middletown Schools have done since Oct. 19, students with last names starting with letters A-L will be in schools on Mondays and Tuesdays, and those with M-Z will be in schools on Thursdays and Fridays. All students will learn remotely from home on Wednesdays.

The district reported 11 positive coronavirus tests for staff and students and 158 quarantines last week. That has caused a shortage in staff and substitute teachers, the district said.

Middletown Schools Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. released a statement noting “we want our students back. We can make it happen if we do our part to stop the spread by masking up, following social distance protocols, and washing our hands.”

CONTINUING COVERAGE

The Journal-News is the only local media outlet to follow coronavirus-related decisions at every Butler County school and school district. We’re committed to asking district leaders important questions about student safety and will continue to report on what’s happening in our communities.

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