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“Higher than normal” teacher absences reported at some Central Coast schools

MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. (KION-TV) As the spring semester kicks off, several schools across the Central Coast are missing key staff members.  Despite the illness related absences, classes must go on and substitute teachers are in high demand.

“Our goal is to keep the kids in the classroom being taught in person and we’ll do whatever we have to do in order to make sure that takes place,” said Jim Koenig, Alisal Union School District Superintendent. 

More than 40 teachers at Alisal Union School District were out Tuesday for a personal illness. It's a higher than normal number of absences, according Koenig. "Normally, we have one maybe two teachers absent at each school site. Right now, we are experiencing a little bit more than three.” 

The district said they don't know if the teachers are out because of COVID, but they’re making sure each position is temporarily filled. 

"We are meeting the needs of the students in every classroom in the district with either the regular teacher, a substitute teacher or another fully qualified member of our staff,” mentioned Koenig. 

Monterey Peninsula Unified School District is also reporting "higher than normal" teacher absences. And it's not just teachers.  

“We have as many students out as we ever had since I’ve been in the district. We’ve hit a peak and in the future we’re going to see a down turn and we will get back to something. reasonable,” continued Koenig.  

Salinas City Elementary School District reveal that 16 teachers are out, along with 500 students and around 80 office, food service and custodial staff are also absent.

"Temporary certificates can now be issued to those with bachelor's degree and if they pass a background check," SCESD Superintendent Rebeca Andrade said in Board of Supervisor meeting on Jan. 11. "Student teachers previously would have to have credentialed teacher with them. Right now student teachers can be assigned to a classroom without the district getting any penalties."

Districts are also calling in other fully certificated teachers, such as instructional coaches, intervention teachers, and teachers on special assignment. 

This week, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to provide staffing flexibility for schools to continue with safe, in-person instruction for students. The order will lower barriers that delay the hire of qualified short-term substitute teachers, as well as retired teachers looking to return to the classroom, according to the Governor’s Office.  

“We will allow more access to allow more people in a more timely way to provide more flexibility to support to encourage more and more districts to keep our kids safely, in person for the remainder of the year,” said Governor Gavin Newsom during a press conference.  

The order is set to expire on March 31. If teachers do test positive, they are required to quarantine for 5 days. At that point they have to retest until negative. Alisal Union School District is also giving out home test kits to parents and students needing one.

This story was updated to include Salinas City Elementary School District.

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