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CMS teacher absences are going down but substitutes still can't cover them all

Piedmont TOY Andy O'Neill.jpeg
Schools are celebrating 2022 teacher of the year awards amid struggles to cover classrooms. Andy O'Neill took the honor for Piedmont Middle School.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Earnest Winston says this week has brought a decline in teacher absences compared with the first couple of weeks after winter break.

"It appears that the trend is due to lower numbers of COVID cases among staff," he told the school board Tuesday.

Winston said CMS had 542 teacher absences Tuesday, with 253 subtitutes available to cover them. That’s down from the first couple of weeks after the return from winter break, when CMS was averaging more than a thousand absences a day.

"This does not mean we no longer face challenges," he said. "Like our peer districts here in North Carolina, across this region and across the country, we face shortages of qualified teachers to fill vacancies."

Absences caused by COVID-19 and quarantines are compounded by record numbers of resignations and retirements, coupled with difficulty recruiting full-time teachers and substitutes.

Winston said central-office staff are continuing to act as substitute teachers and fill other gaps in schools. The district had 97 bus drivers absent or on leave Tuesday, he said.

Winston said he has not shifted any schools into remote learning because of COVID-related staffing gaps. He said Eastway Middle School had to go remote Tuesday but that was because of a broken water pipe.

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