Despite initial concerns about potential staffing shortages, local education officials are pleased with how the first week back in the classroom has gone.

Prior to the return to face-to-face learning, there were some worries about education workers not being able to come to work due to either being sick or being exposed to someone with COVID-19. 

However, Scott Johnson, director of Education with the St Clair Catholic District School Board, says things went quite smoothly this week with the number of staff off sick actually less than it was before the Christmas break. 

“We have filled all of our jobs while teachers and educational staff are away we’ve been able to replace them,” Johnson explains. “We’ve not had to close a single class, we’ve not had to utilize emergency staffing such as adult supervisors, library technicians, or principals to cover classes, which were part of our contingency plan.”

At the Lambton-Kent District School Board, about 2% of students in kindergarten to grade 12 have opted to stay with online learning for the time being, but will eventually shift back to the classroom.

Director of Education John Howitt says about 10% of staff and 12% of students were away from school this week, either because of being sick or in isolation. 

“Those numbers are approaching concern where we’re going to have to use central staff to help fill absent classes, we’re not there yet,” Howitt says. “If we look at the data that’s come out of western Canada, it seems to be around 7-10 days after reopening that the real staffing crisis hit. We’re hoping not to have that scenario repeated.”

Howitt says should there be any staffing issues, contingency plans are in place to fill the void, if need be.