School staffing shortages delay return to full time

Sparta. Required quarantines of Covid-19 cases among the custodial staff has delayed instruction at Sparta’s middle and high schools until Monday.

Sparta /
| 25 Mar 2021 | 10:02

The reopening plan for Sparta Township Public Schools has hit a bit of a snag.

While Alpine Elementary, Mohawk Avenue, and Helen Morgan have opened for combined cohorts as planned, a depleted custodial staff — the result of required quarantines from a Covid outbreak — is delaying full-day instruction at the middle and high schools.

Cohort A was in-person at both schools for the week of March 15, and Cohort B is in-person the week of March 22. High school was in session from 7:22 a.m. until noon, while the middle school was in session from 7:40 a.m. until 12:20 p.m.

Interim Superintendent Patrick McQueeney said in a letter to the community that he would continue to meet with the Return to School Committee and administrative teams to review the plans and make adjustments that may be needed beyond Friday.

Teacher absences have been highest at the high school. On March 17 there were 39 staff members out of the building.

“We are in a position where we can only be stretched so thin,” McQueeney said at the March 18 school board meeting. “Our only alternative would be to close the building.”

McQueeney said the district could, to some extent, fill some of the spots.

“There’s no way to guarantee every one is going to be filled, and I can’t commit to every administrator being able to step into the classroom,” he said.

Melissa Fagerston’s daughter is a high school senior who spent three school days on Google Meet. Fagerston asked to be kept informed about which of her child’s teachers were not going to be in school.

“That is not the social and emotional experience for my daughter that I would like for her to have,” she said. “I am sending her to school to see her teachers, form relationships, and have some connection to the school system that she grew up in.”

Resident Leonore Distefano said she was concerned about what the fourth marking period would look like. She said she doesn’t want send her high school student to school to just sit in the cafeteria.

“We are failing our students, and we are failing our teachers, as well, if there’s such a lack of communication,” she said. “There’s something truly wrong here.”

“We are failing our students, and we are failing our teachers, as well, if there’s such a lack of communication. There’s something truly wrong here.” Leonore Distefano