Boston Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius teaches grade 5 as district tackles COVID staff shortages

As Boston public schools faced the prospect of a severe staff shortage during the surge in post-vacation COVID-19 cases on Monday, Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said: “If I have to go out and teach in the classroom , I will do that.

Two days later, it looks like she will.

Cassellius plans to teach fifth grade at a school in Boston on Wednesday, she said.

“I couldn’t sleep last night, I was so excited to teach today in fifth grade,” Cassellius wrote on Twitter. “I feel like it’s my first day of class. I can’t wait to welcome my amazing students.

Cassellius will enter class on Wednesday with more than three decades of experience in education, according to the Boston Public Schools website. Prior to becoming Superintendent in 2019, she served as Minnesota Education Commissioner, East Metro Integration District Superintendent in the Twin Cities area, and School Administrator in Minneapolis and Memphis.

Boston’s school system is one of many districts across the state struggling with teacher shortages fueled by COVID. More than 1,000 teachers and other school employees out of a total of 10,000 staff were unemployed on Tuesday.

Not all were sick with COVID, WCVB reported. Some were on maternity or paternity leave, others were absent for other health reasons and some parents had called to take care of a sick child. But the district still faced a daunting task of making up for the hundreds of teachers absent from the classroom.

Schools also had 52 bus drivers, the network said.

At Lowell, administrators faced similar challenges. Superintendent Joel Boyd told families the district was experiencing a 10% staff absence rate due to COVID. In addition, he said that number is expected to increase as the results of the school system’s pool tests conducted on Monday and Tuesday arrive.

“If the trend of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in the days and weeks to come, we could reach a level of staff absences that compromises our ability to safely operate one or more schools,” said Boyd.

Weymouth High School is closed on Wednesday due to a staff shortage, as is the high school-based child care program, Superintendent Robert Wargo wrote in a letter to the school community on Tuesday.

“While we understand that closing the school is a challenge for families, we know that we need to have adequate academic support to function effectively,” he said.

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