Phoenix Union superintendent: All hands on deck to keep in-person learning amid staff shortage

Jan 14, 2022, 4:35 AM | Updated: 10:43 am
(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Union High School District)...
(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Union High School District)
(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Union High School District)

PHOENIX — A labor crisis compounded by the spread of the COVID-19 omicron variant is proving a tough task to keep in-person learning going at the Phoenix Union High School District, Superintendent Chad Gestson said Thursday.

“Even before COVID, we were facing a labor crisis and today with omicron it’s been tougher than ever,” Gestson told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad. “We are fortunate here, we have nearly 4,000 employees and they agree we should do everything we can to stay in school and in-person learning but it’s requiring literally all hands on deck.”

Gestson said administrators and classified employees who are certified to teach are substituting in classrooms to help cover the shortage.

“Anybody that can get into classrooms to help us keep schools open is stepping up but I can tell you it gets tougher every day.”

The district has yet to revert to online learning this school year. Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, spread of the virus caused schools to shutter. This time, Gestson said there’s nearly unanimous support among staff that it’s not about the spread of COVID-19 but rather staff shortages that could send students back home.

Executive staff and principals of the district’s 22 schools have said a 20-25% employee absence rate may cause a school to close, according to Gestson.

“We can still keep school open with mitigation strategies if we have enough staff,” Gestson said, saying the district is aware of the high transmission of the virus in the communities it serves.

“At some point, the question becomes do you put 200 kids in an auditorium just to keep school open or do you move to remote learning and focus on learning quality. That’s the crossroads and the challenging decision we have right now.”

He said the district has procedures in place to help aid the situation, including running vaccine events and expanding testing opportunities at the schools, requiring masks indoors and limiting large gatherings.

“Trying to be smart and have one major focus and that’s keep our people healthy and keep in-person learning if possible.”

Arizona may reach its omicron peak in the next couple of weeks with a potentially steep decline in cases soon after like what has been seen in other states and countries.

Gestson said the district is hopeful they can keep up the sprint for the next two to three weeks.

“It’s virtually unbearable when administrators are subbing all day and working all night, and likewise for employees,” he said. “Educators are tired, they were tired before we came back this semester. They are tired today.”

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Facebook Photo/Brophy College Preparatory)...
Associated Press

Brophy College Prep in Phoenix reports widespread cheating

The principal of Brophy College Preparatory says the prestigious private Phoenix high school has learned of “widespread even pervasive” cheating in its all-male student body.
24 hours ago
Clouds pass over drought-stricken Lake Mead on May 10, 2022 in the Lake Mead National Recreation Ar...
Associated Press

Tucson willing to take 20% less water to help Lake Mead shortage

The Tucson City Council included its potential willingness to take 20% less CAP water to keep more in the reservoir.
24 hours ago
(Facebook photo / State Farm Stadium)...
Associated Press

Glendale adopts new short-term rental regulations ahead of Super Bowl

Glendale has preemptively adopted rules regulating short-term rental properties before the city welcomes visitors for the 2023 Super Bowl.
24 hours ago
(Pexels photo)...

Arizona sees significant jobs increase in April, per employment report

The state of Arizona saw a 13,100 jobs increase in the month of April, according to the Arizona Commerce Authority's monthly report.
24 hours ago
(Pexels photo)...

Rio Salado’s Dental Clinic offering free dental work to Arizona’s veterans on Saturday

Arizona's veterans can receive free dental cleanings, dentures, fillings, oral surgery and crowns Saturday at Rio Salado’s Dental Clinic.
24 hours ago
A 9mm pistol build kit with a commercial slide and barrel with a polymer frame is displayed during ...

Felon from Arizona convicted of firearm, ammo possession, including ‘ghost gun’

An Arizona felon was found guilty of illegally possessing over 20 firearms, including a “ghost gun,” and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
24 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Christina O’Haver

Stroke month: Experts call attention to stroke prevention

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
Canvas Annuity

The secret to guaranteed retirement income

Annuities aren’t really a secret, but they are so misunderstood that they might as well be. Once you understand what an annuity is and how it can benefit you, you could decide this “secret” is the perfect supplement to your retirement plan.

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to in April

April brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Suns and Diamondbacks.
Phoenix Union superintendent: All hands on deck to keep in-person learning amid staff shortage