More than 1,000 Palm Beach County teachers out as classes resume Wednesday

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Posted at 3:30 PM, Jan 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-05 17:50:59-05

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — No major disruptions on the first day back at school. That’s what the School District of Palm Beach County is reporting while it faces an uptick in teacher outages.

With no option to go virtual, Palm Beach County public school students returned to the classroom Wednesday in the midst of a COVID-19 variant surge.

"There’s no way to eliminate it and kids have to go to school," said parent Andrea Topping.

In the pick-up line at Jupiter Community High School, Topping said the day appeared to run smoothly.

On the first day back from winter break, the School District of Palm Beach County said 1,053 teachers were out, a 15% uptick in callouts compared to the same week in 2021, but only about 8% of the district's entire teaching staff.

"Everything was good. Buses were fairly on time this morning so that was good," said parent Susan Eble.

Substitutes are being called in this week and employees who work in other areas and have the required license and training are driving school buses as needed.

No new numbers on the district’s COVID-19 dashboard yet, but local pediatrician Dr. Tommy Schechtman said medical offices are swamped.

"Our phone lines are quite busy," Schechtman said. "We’re seeing it all ages. I had a three-month-old yesterday who was positive. I had a 23-year-old yesterday who was positive."

Schechtman sits on the school district's medical task force and said while students are not mandated to wear masks, parents should strongly consider it.

"I'm not a big fan to be honest. I just feel like the kids are here to learn. It’s such a distraction from what they have to do," Topping said.

In St. Lucie Public Schools, 264 teachers were out on Wednesday, which represents 6.8% of the school district's entire teaching staff.

The Okeechobee County School District had 34 teachers out Wednesday with only 23 of those needing a substitute teacher.

School districts in Martin and Indian River counties haven't said how many teachers were out on Wednesday.