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Ensure We Have Enough Teachers

Officials at several school districts in our region take pride in having many veteran teachers on their payrolls. All other things being equal, that means better education for our children.

It may be a challenge this year, however.

School administrators and teachers in the Northern Panhandle and East Ohio are preparing to reopen schools for the upcoming academic year. During a board of education meeting last week, Marshall County school Superintendent Shelby Haines outlined plans for reopening schools early next month. Some school employees have expressed concern about their health. About 15 are discussing whether they can take leaves of absence, Haines reported.

Reopening schools should not involve much risk for students. Of the more than 151,000 Americans whose lives have been claimed by COVID-19, just 42 were less than 15 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But for older people, the danger is much greater, especially if they suffer from other health care conditions. In other words, the very veteran teachers we have in abundance may be worried about going back to the classroom.

Should a substantial number of teachers decide to take leave, schools could be understaffed.

It already is difficult for many local school systems to find substitute teachers — who, in fact, often are retirees themselves, with reasonable concern about the virus.

The bottom line is that schools may need more substitute teachers than they can find.

State school officials should consider relaxing requirements for substitute teachers temporarily, to ensure that if a large number are needed, they can be hired.

To our knowledge, local education administrators have not expressed concern about having enough staff available — though, like Haines, they are aware some employees are thinking about their own health as well as that of students. Should the situation become a problem, preemptive action at the state level could be important.

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