Rise in COVID-19 cases prompts multiple school districts to switch plans

School officials in districts across the Philadelphia region are worried cases will continue to rise after the holidays.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- School districts across the Delaware Valley canceled classes on Monday. The decision was influenced by rising COVID-19 cases, staffing shortages and winter weather.

Some parents in Central Bucks School District think administrators made the right call to cancel classes on Monday.

Students we spoke with told Action News they were happy to get an extra morning of sleeping in, but they're concerned with how the next few weeks are going to play out.

"All the teachers are out and I have study hall like twice a week, and I shouldn't have study hall that often," said Carley Cuba.

On Monday evening, Central Bucks officials said schools will return to regular in-person instruction Tuesday, January 4.

The Central Bucks School District is one of the largest school districts in Pennsylvania. A message on the district website said staffing shortages were expected due to COVID callouts and not enough subs.

Some students are hoping their classes won't be switched to virtual. They say last year was challenging taking classes online, and they'd much rather be in-person and wearing masks.

"I think it's important that we are protecting everybody, so inside we need to be spacing out and wearing masks again," said Tara Davis, a Central Bucks mom and nurse.

Lower Merion School District also canceled classes on Monday. As of Monday evening, the district plans to resume in-person learning on Tuesday.

However, students in the district we spoke with think it's best for them to go virtual for a few weeks.

One student said too many teachers and too many kids are getting sick, he thinks it's best to stay home.

"I think we should mostly be online just to prevent more and more cases to come, but hopefully two weeks later after that, we can go back in person," said Yoni Webner.

A few teachers agreed in-person learning with safety precautions is best for students, opposed to going virtual.

Central Bucks School District has not announced their plans for the remainder of the week at this time.

Staffing shortages in Upper Darby

In Delaware County, Upper Darby School District officials announced Beverly Hills Middle School would go to online learning Monday because of staff shortages due to the pandemic.

"We have assessed our current staffing information at the time of this communication, and we have a number of staff who have indicated they are either symptomatic, a close contact, or Covid-19 positive," Daniel McGarry, Superintendent of Schools, said.

The district reports 16 teachers are out due to the virus.

All other schools in the Upper Darby School District were to remain open for in-person learning on Monday.

"It is our goal to keep schools open for in-person instruction, but we are going to need everyone to support us," McGarry said. "As we have stated since the beginning of this pandemic, there may be times when we must close a classroom and/or a particular school."

On Monday morning, the Upper Darby School District announced all schools would be closed due to the wintry weather forecast.

The district says all schools will reopen for in-person learning on Tuesday.

Marple Newtown School District changes

The Marple Newtown School District announced that it would be closed Tuesday due to staffing shortages.

Plans for the remainder of the week will be announced on Tuesday.

"Should there be a need for virtual learning for the remainder of the week; any students who do not have their laptops at home are welcome to come to school to retrieve it tomorrow. The District realizes this is inconvenient for our families, however, the health and safety of our staff and students is our top priority and without sufficient staff, we would not have a healthy and productive day of school," said the district in a statement.

Dozens of Philly schools going virtual

Due to staffing challenges stemming from the omicron-related spike, the School District of Philadelphia will shift 81 schools to virtual learning for the remainder of the week.

The list of schools that will shift to 100% virtual learning starting Tuesday, January 4 through at least Friday, January 7 can be found here.

"As we've always said, our goal is to keep the District open so we can surround our young people with the caring educators and support services they need - as long as we can do so safely," said Superintendent William R. Hite, Jr., Ed.D. "District leaders have been meeting regularly with local public health officials to monitor the COVID-19 situation, and we've also been closely tracking data to determine COVID's impact on staff coverage in schools."

The remaining District-led schools will be open for in-person learning starting Tuesday.

New Jersey schools making adjustments

In New Jersey, Pennsauken Public Schools will operate on a fully remote schedule throughout this week.

"Due to the rise in COVID-19 cases in the state and nationally, Pennsauken Public Schools will operate on a fully remote schedule from Monday, January 3, 2022 through Friday, January 7, 2022," the district said.

In-person instruction will return on Monday, January 10.

On Dec. 29, Camden City School District announced all its schools will be remote starting January 3 through Friday, January 14.

"The rising number of COVID-19 and Omicron cases is of great concern for all of us and we believe full, remote learning is the right choice at this time," Katrina McCombs, State District Superintendent, said.

The hope is to have classes resume in-person on January 18.

Haddon Heights School District is virtual from Tuesday, Jan. 4 through at least Tuesday, Jan. 18.

"During the upcoming weeks, we will continuously monitor infection statistics and health department recommendations. When we reach a decision about classes beginning January 18th, we will immediately communicate with you. As always, we will act with utmost caution to protect the health of all students, staff and families," Haddon Heights officials said.
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