The Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board (SMCDSB) has sent a letter home to parents and guardians asking them to have a plan in place should staffing shortages caused by COVID-19 require the temporary closure of a school.
“We’re just watching what’s happening in the GTA and other areas that have had to take similar action,” said SMCDSB communications spokesperson Pauline Stevenson.
“We are watching the situation very closely in our board and we can see that case counts are continuing to rise in the province and in our area.”
Stevenson said the board has been dealing with staffing shortages all year and more particularly since in-classroom learning resumed in February.
One factor for an increase in absences by staff is the criteria for staying home from work has been strengthened by the province.
“We just really want our parents and guardians to understand the staffing realities that we’re dealing with and to be prepared just in case,” Stevenson said. “We’re doing everything we can to mitigate this situation.”
The board has managed to cover staffing shortages with non-classroom educators such as French teachers, prep teachers, special education resource teachers, vice-principals and principals.
“We are stretched really thin every day,” Stevenson told Barrie 360.
There is not adequate supply staff to cover educator absences.
“We are watching the number of unfilled jobs increase and despite aggressive recruitment campaigns we are running out of options to fill staff absences – this includes reaching out to teacher colleges to bring in student teachers,” according to the letter from the board.
“We’ve had a couple of situations where the number of staff that was out was definitely concerning and we had to dig really deep to try to find the coverage,” said Stevenson.
“If those sorts of numbers are happening at two, three and four schools all on the same day, which is a possibility, then we’re going to find ourselves in a situation where we just don’t have the people to safely open the school.”