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Nebraska City elementary school to reopen after unexpected closure this week

District officials say lack of substitutes, illnesses (including COVID-19) led to staff shortages.
Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 4:32 PM CDT
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NEBRASKA CITY, Neb. (WOWT) - Parents have been scrambling to find care for their kids after a Nebraska elementary school shut down unexpectedly earlier this week.

For the past two days, Hayward Elementary School in Nebraska City has been closed down. The superintendent says that’s because too many staff members are currently out. Parents say it’s been frustrating.

Parents like Ashleigh Behrens say they were notified earlier this week about the staffing shortage.

“Monday, right around the time school got out, they sent a text and a call saying that a lot of the teachers, staff, paras, and substitutes were sick, so school would be canceled Tuesday and Wednesday,” Behrens said.

More than 30% of the school’s staff has been absent over recent days. The district says the reasons why have varied, but illnesses — including COVID-19 — are playing a role.

“When we say illness, COVID-19 is definitely a part of the illness, but it is not the only illness that is going through our school, our students, and our staff,” said Mark Fritch, superintendent of Nebraska City Public Schools.

The district said finding substitute teachers has been a challenge, too.

“That pool has also shrunk. So we do not have as many substitutes available to fill those positions available when we are in need,” Fritch said.

Kids will be back in the classroom tomorrow, but Behrens isn’t sure it will stick long-term.

“I guess if so many of them are sick right now, I don’t see how just the two-day break would magically make them all better to be able to go back to school. I’m not really sure what they’ll do moving forward,” she said.

School district officials said having the students in the classroom learning is always the goal, but with current staffing issues and a lack of substitute teachers, they can’t promise another closure won’t happen.

“If I were to be very honest with you, and visiting with people with the department of health and thing to that effect, I’m not so sure that this doesn’t happen again in the future. Think most of the time, it’s always going to come back to staffing,” Fritch said.

District officials said they do want to thank parents for their patience over the past few days as they worked out a solution.

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