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Staff Shortages Push Some Shasta County Schools To Distance Learning

A boy wearing a backpack and a facemask stands near the front steps of a school.
Kelly Sikkema | Unsplash

While some Oregon school districts are asking the state to let them start face-to-face classes, some schools in Northern California are doing just the opposite: they’re having to transition to distance learning because of staff shortages.

Most schools in California’s northernmost region have been holding in-person classes throughout fall.

But now coronavirus cases are surging in their communities, including Shasta County. More teachers and other school staff are contracting the virus or coming in contact with infected people.

More than a hundred cases of coronavirus have been tied to Shasta County k-through-12 schools in the last two weeks.

“With the large numbers of cases being identified, and then the contact tracing, everyday [school districts] are getting new information and are evaluating their ability to stay open,” says Superintendent of Schools Judy Flore.

More than a dozen schools in the county have had to transition into distance learning so far this school year. Flores says the region is also facing the biggest substitute teacher shortage she’s ever seen, since many substitutes are retirees who don’t want to risk their health.

Administrators hope that shortage eases when the region starts administering the vaccine to the general population.

April Ehrlich is JPR content partner at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Prior to joining OPB, she was a regional reporter at Jefferson Public Radio where she won a National Edward R. Murrow Award.