LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Today, several school districts like Stockbridge Community Schools and Columbia Schools in Jackson County closed due to staffing shortages and COVID-19.

Stockbridge’s superintendent says several teachers were out today for several different reasons, and it just didn’t make sense to have school.

But the Michigan Education Association says these staffing shortages are a problem across the state.

“We started seeing just a few schools, maybe a building or so, now we’re seeing whole districts say nope we’re going to take this week off because we don’t have enough teachers,” said David Crim, a spokesperson for the Michigan Education Association.

Stockbridge schools is one of those districts.

Although they only closed for today, the superintendent says staff could not be in school for many issues, some COVID-related and others not, and he wasn’t comfortable having classes with the number of staff available.

“Part of the reason is that there are not enough substitute teachers. They simply cannot find enough substitutes whereas prior to the pandemic, they can call on subs and keep schools open. They can’t do that anymore,” said Crim.
And it’s not just teachers.

It’s food service, secretaries, custodial staff and more.

“Respect for the profession has declined greatly in the last decade, compensation, a tax on wages and benefits, the retirement in the number of teachers last year was up 40% from the previous year. So that pandemic took a toll on the existing staff across the state,” said Crim.

Safety is also a concern

“They’re also looking to be safe in their classrooms and not have to fight parents and others in the community to keep their students safe,” said Crim.

Crim says the best way to solve this is more funding.

“We need to do more… One year’s education budget will not make up for that. So that money needs to continue flowing to the districts, and the districts need to improve compensation for teachers as well as support professionals,” he said.

Stockbridge Community schools say they will reopen on Monday with all staff.

They also plan to get more teachers after Thanksgiving.