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Northern Panhandle Schools Report Few Call-Offs The First Week

McNinch Primary School shares a message encouraging people to wear a mask.

WHEELING — School districts across the nation are reporting a high number of employee call-offs, but that is not happening in the Northern Panhandle, according to local officials.

The number of available substitute employees could be of concern in the future, however, if illness strikes a school, they say.

Susan Nolte, human resources director for Ohio County Schools, reported the call off rate there last week no higher than usual for the first week of school.

“We had people who we already knew about who were going to be off for a variety of reasons,” she said. “There were no surprises, and nobody called panic.

“I think everybody was just excited to get back with the kids. We had a few teachers and staff call off each day, but overall there was better attendance than usual. We will see what this week brings.”

Nolte said she doesn’t yet have concerns about there being a limited number of substitute teachers available, but she can see this being an issue in the future as Ohio County Schools competes with neighboring school districts for available substitutes.

“As we get into the historically cold and flu season, we know illnesses come,” she said. “I think a lot of that will depend on what level we are in, and what we are able to do virtually with some teachers.

“Yes, I am concerned. It is not an immediate concern, but it will be.”

Marshall County Schools Superintendent Shelby Haines said the district hasn’t experienced an uptick in call-offs yet this year, but COVID 19 concerns are going to make it difficult to find substitute employees.

“Many of our substitutes are retired teachers, and some are opting not to sub right now,” she said. “They are afraid of exposure to COVID, so that reduces our substitute pool for all areas — bus drivers, custodians, aides — quite significantly. So that is an issue.”

The need for substitutes intensifies when there is a case of COVID-19 reported among staff at a school.

This week, one employee at Sherrard Middle School, and another at McNinch Primary School tested positive for the virus. It was determined three staff members were exposed to the virus at Sherrard, and nine at McNinch. These employees had to be quarantined for the next 14 days, or until they test negative for the virus.

“When someone is exposed to COVID directly and quarantined, they of course then need a substitute,” Haines said. “We have a few instances, and those persons remain out until they complete quarantine or obtain a negative test result.”

The schools will be closed until Sept. 28 because there weren’t enough substitute employees available, she said. Students will learn remotely during this time.

Brooke County Schools also reported good employee attendance early in the school year.

“We are not seeing a lot of call offs, and our employees are coming to work,” said Stephanie Zimmer, director of technology and assessment for Brooke County Schools. “We have not had any issues with substitutes.”

The same is the case in Wetzel County Schools, according to Assistant Superintendent Darren Cook.

“Our teachers are very professional, and we have had no more than the usual number of call offs,” he said. “We’re OK.”

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