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COVID absences and substitute shortages cause northern Michigan school districts to temporarily close

substitute teacher
Tra Nguyen
/
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Students are returning to school in Leland and Ludington Monday after the districts closed last week because of the rising number of students and staff out sick, or in quarantine.

Newaygo Public Schools shut down last week when too many teachers called out sick with COVID, or for other reasons. Superintendent Jeff Wright said they ended up using most of their allotted snow days because their pool of subs was too small.

“We looked at who could cover. I could cover recess or I could cover in the cafeteria. Who else could we pull in to help cover? We didn’t have enough,” he said.

Wright said some subs the district used to count on aren’t ready to go into a school with 500 potentially unmasked or unvaccinated students.

“Their health circumstances, they become unavailable or want to make sure that we are further along through this covid process,” he said.

Wright said it’s difficult to recruit subs because it requires a number of credit hours, training and background checks. Even retired teachers can have trouble getting qualified to be substitutes.

Taylor Wizner covers heath, tourism and other news for Interlochen Public Radio.