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Staff Shortages in Schools, but Learning Must Continue

There are currently staff shortages in schools because more and more teachers and students are getting infected with COVID-19. 

To make up for the staff shortages in schools, the teachers who are still reporting to work have to work double time for the classes to continue. There are stories of teachers needing to teach two classrooms at the same time, constantly moving around both classrooms to attend to the needs of the children.

Some teachers also need to work overtime to carry the workload of those who cannot report to work. 

The option of looking for substitute teachers is also not readily available. This is supposed to help institutions and their staff cope with the increased amount of work to do. However, it is difficult to hire substitute teachers because they themselves are sick or unavailable.

It’s not Just Staff Shortages in Schools; Students are Also Nowhere to be Found

More and more students are also unable to attend their classes. They are either getting sick with the COVID-19 virus or their family members are. It then becomes difficult for them to focus on schoolwork because of the symptoms they have developed, the isolation regulations they must comply with, and the additional housework they have to perform.

Some parents are also uncomfortable with sending their children to school. They are afraid of the exposure that their children will have as they interact with their schoolmates. This comes at a time when regulations state that a class with less than five students infected with COVID-19 is not required to undergo quarantine. 

In response, teachers are utilizing online methods so that the students can remain updated with their schoolwork. The inability to attend face-to-face classes should not hinder children from learning. 

The Spanish Education Ministry and regional governments are confident that schools are safe. They have been releasing communication materials to ensure that teachers, students, and parents know that it is safe to continue opening schools. This information can abate the fears that they have and allow them to confidently continue classes in person. 

The Situation Seems Different Across Various Centers

Empty classrooms and staff shortages

However, the situation is not the same for every center. Some claim that there are no staff shortages in schools within their area. On the other hand, some schools claim that the situation keeps on changing. 

In a school in Sant Andreu district, 10 out of 71 teachers were not able to report to work after the holiday break due to infection with COVID-19. 50 out of 665 students were also undergoing self-isolation. 

A teacher shares his experience of having only two students in the classroom on a particular day. This comes after having one student who tested positive. Because of this, other students opted to stay at home instead of risking their safety due to the possible exposure they would have. 

At the same school, students taking their bachelor’s degree were being taught by their teacher online, even if they were in school. Their teacher tested positive and was unable to physically attend class. In an effort to continue classes, the teacher decided to utilize technology so that he could do his work and isolate at the same time.

San Isidoro secondary school in Seville is experiencing the same situation. For various reasons, 15 out of 62 teachers decided to stay home. Six teachers were infected with COVID-19. One experienced side effects from the vaccine, four had preexisting conditions, and four retired during the Christmas break. 

A teacher shares that “I’ve been here three days and it already feels like three months”.

Students also feel unsafe. At Dr. Puigvert school located in Barcelona, some decided not to return to class after finding out that a classmate had tested positive for COVID-19. 

Some disagree with when the classes started and would have preferred it if everyone had an RT-PCR test. 

The situation is putting additional pressure on students. Those taking the Selectividad university exams later on in the year are finding it difficult to cope with schoolwork as disruptions continuously occur. 

In Catalonia, during the first half of the month, there were 30,500 and 3,800 COVID-19 cases among students and teachers, respectively. 52,632 students and 6,663 teachers were under isolation. 

Current Quarantine Regulations for Classrooms

Students in Madrid Practicing Physical Distancing as Part of the School’s Regulations

Both the central and regional health authorities decided to change the quarantine regulations in schools. 

The bubble group, implemented early on during the COVID-19 pandemic, aimed to limit the exposure of students during face-to-face classes. This required a group of students to remain in their own assigned bubbles and not interact with anyone outside of them. 

The new regulation states that the entire classroom will not be required to undergo quarantine if fewer than five students or less than 20% of the students in a bubble group test positive for COVID-19.

On the other hand, if 5 or more students in a bubble group test positive for COVID-19, the entire classroom will be required to undergo quarantine. 

Some regional officials considered continuing online classes, especially because of the surge in cases due to the omicron variant. However, this was not supported by groups of teachers and parents. They would prefer the conduct of physical classes in school. 

Parents are experiencing challenges when their children conduct classes at home. They have responsibilities at work that are difficult to balance with taking care of their children during supposed work hours. 

The situation regarding the safe conduct of classes in schools remains hopeful. The Health Ministry expects that 70% of children belonging to the 5–11 age group will have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by early February. It will be beneficial in curbing the spread of COVID-19 in students.

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