Bucks County high school cancels classes, cites teacher shortage

The district said they're not aware of any COVID-19 or flu outbreaks, so the reason for the 33 callouts is unclear.
BRISTOL TOWNSHIP, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Freshman Marcus Kollie was surprised to learn on Friday morning that classes at Truman High School were canceled after 33 faculty members called out.

"I was like, 'Oh snap,'" Kollie said.

A message on the Bristol Township School District website said: "Due to the number of staff out and subsequent safety concerns today, Truman High School is closed for students. Staff not out on sick leave should report to the building. We are continuing to recruit substitute teachers to address shortages."

The district and the Bucks County Department of Health said Friday they're not aware of any COVID-19 or flu outbreaks, so the reason for the 33 callouts is unclear.

Kollie says he's noticed staffing issues at school.

"There have been times where we had to go to the auditorium when we didn't have any subs," he said.

One Truman High School parent who wanted to remain anonymous said they plan to complain at the school board meeting this Monday evening.

"They care about themselves more than they care about the kids," another parent said, referring to the teachers.

The Bristol Township Education Association had no comment Friday.

Substitute Teachers Service is the service that provides subs for Bristol Township and more than 80 other school districts in Pennsylvania.
Vice President for Business Affairs J.R. Godwin said Friday's incident is rare.

"In our 27-year history there may have been one other time where this has happened," said Godwin.

He says the substitute teacher shortage is real. Between COVID-19 risks and other work-from-home job opportunities, their pool of subs is much smaller.

The Pennsylvania State Education Association has been encouraging retired teachers to come back and sub, and urging districts to use American Rescue Plan funding to pay substitutes more.

A spokesperson said teacher burnout is at an all-time high.

"Because of the health and safety rules that are in place, because of this substitute teacher shortage, what we're finding is that teachers don't have any downtime throughout the day," said Chris Lilienthal, Assistant Director of Communications for the Pennsylvania State Education Association. "They're losing their prep periods, they're losing lunch periods because they have to fill in where they don't have substitutes. And that's bad for educators but it's also bad for students."
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