Schools Close At A Glance:

  • Schools extend Thanksgiving break on short notice.
  • Teacher and staff shortage putting pressure on schools across the nation.
  • NY ER forced to close due to shortages after religious exemptions revoked.

Last spring, hundreds of schools across the US were forced to close on short notice due to staffing shortages and teacher absences following COVID vaccinations.1 The schools stated the days off would allow teachers who’d had reactions to the vaccine to recover. In the past couple of weeks, the trend for short-notice closures has returned.

Burbio, an organization that tracks school district websites, says these closures are an accelerating trend in the month of November, affecting 858 districts and 8,692 individual schools so far.2

From Chicago,  Ann Arbor, Seattle to  Baltimore, large school districts across the nation are faced with the stresses of staff and faculty shortages and short-term, short-notice closures.

Eligibility for Boosters for Adults, Vaccination for Elementary Students

In October, boosters became available for many teachers, healthcare workers, first responders, and others who work in public spaces. The eligibility was expanded last week to all adults over the age of 18 who completed their primary two dose series of Moderna or Pfizer six months ago or received the J&J two months ago. Shortly following a vaccine clinic earlier this month, one school in Michigan reported it cancelled school due to negative reactions by teachers.

While boosters aren’t required, they are recommended for many. Rochelle Walensky and Anthony Fauci have indicated the term “fully vaccinated” may need to be revised as more Americans become eligible for boosters. Currently, the term doesn’t include boosters, just the two weeks following the original series of doses. Some countries, like Israel require boosters for COVID passports to work under the terms of fully vaccinated.

Elementary-aged students are also now eligible for their primary series of Pfizer COVID vaccines. This marks the first time all students ages five and up are eligible.

Teachers, Support Staff Leaving In Record Numbers

Staff shortages have been reported by districts across the nation for the 2021-2022 school year. To get a clearer picture of just how dire the situation is, EducationWeek, an industry journal for educators, published survey results:

“More than three-quarters of district leaders and principals say they’re experiencing at least moderate staffing shortages in their school buildings this year, according to the newly published results of a nationally representative EdWeek Research Center survey.

“Fifteen percent said shortages are “very severe,” 25 percent said they’re “severe,” and another 37 percent classified staffing challenges as “moderate.”

“Just 5 percent of administrators said they aren’t experiencing any staffing shortages in their schools or districts this year. Another 18 percent said the shortages are “mild” or “very mild.”

“The shortages are most acute, according to the survey results, among substitute teachers, bus drivers, and instructional aides.

“Slightly more than three-quarters of respondents said they’re having trouble finding enough substitutes to cover teacher absences; 68 percent said bus drivers are hard to come by; and 55 percent said they’re struggling to fill open positions for paraprofessionals and instructional aides.

“Full-time teaching positions, too, are causing headaches for administrators. Just shy of half of respondents identified teachers among the roles they’re struggling to fill.”3

Typically, teachers hand in resignations or acknowledge their intent not to resign a contract in the spring months leading up to summer break. Some choose to give notice to align with school breaks. Rarely do teachers quit at the beginning of the school year.

Labor Department data shows that in September alone, 30,000 public school teachers handed in their notices.4

Some Schools Rethinking Mandates; Teachers Speaking Out

Teachers have been quite vocal in making sure their voices are heard. In New York, many teachers took to a march closing down the Brooklyn Bridge in September as mandates loomed. A group called NY Teachers for Choice has put together instructions for how to leave teachers unions that are not standing up to vaccine mandates.

Many schools are rethinking the mandates they have put in place for teachers as the shortages continue and more and more staff leave. In Montgomery, Maryland, teachers who were required to be vaccinated by today now have a testing option in place and the threat of termination has been softened.

Not just Schools; ER closes due to staff shortages

The closures this week weren’t limited to schools. A Long Beach, Long Island, New York, emergency clinic serving a community of over 50,000 people had to close its doors due to staff shortages and COVID vaccine mandates. As the only emergency clinic in the area, it served over 70,000 patients a year. South Nassau hospital system said it lost six dozen workers who chose to remain unvaccinated when the New York Health Department chose to retract their religious exemptions creating a shortage of nurses for the ER.5

Hold the Phone — Doc’s Thoughts:

We could have anticipated these school closures happening last spring with the surge of vaccine reactions causing closings. Add to that the already stressed school systems due to staff shortages from the stress of teaching the last two school years and the mandates, and they have a recipe for disaster. Because of the mandates schools have put into place, and the need for a booster just six months after the initial doses due to the vaccines failing, this is simple math and timing.

The Pfizer vaccine was approved for use in elementary aged kids on November 2, with vaccines shipping nearly immediately and arriving in clinics later that week. The latest numbers on VAERS already show within the first days the vaccine was available:

A chart showing VAERS data through November 12. 2021

Let’s take a closer look and ask a few questions. There are 255 reports for children under the age of 3 years. It’s not approved for that age bracket. Are these due to trials or errors in administering the wrong vaccine like happened to a family in Indiana as well as others? Notice the break downs here. The numbers are likely diluted due to the 3-6 bracket when it’s approved for 5 and up and the 9-12 bracket when 12-year-olds have had approval for a few months longer. These are some questions we should have access to answers to so that parents can make an informed decision.

If the teachers are having reactions, and with what we are seeing in VAERS, it is possible that some of those school closures are not limited to teacher shortages. There may be some student shortages as well. The timing is rather convenient to add days to the Thanksgiving break. It will certainly be interesting to see what happens between now and Christmas.

These teachers are facing mandates and making their choices known as they leave the job market. Nurses and healthcare workers have been holding the lines and speaking out for months. Kids don’t have that choice. And we know the mandates are coming for the kids as well. Who will be their voices?

Parents. You need to stand up. You need to make an informed decision. With so much data being restricted, that’s not exactly possible. You don’t need to co-parent with the government and schools. You can make the choice for your family. Sometimes those choices are hard and involve sacrifice. Often the right choices do.