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Hancock Schools dismisses for two days due to illness staffing shortages

Hancock County Schools were dismissed from classes Jan. 28 and Jan. 31 due to staffing shortages among teachers, classified staff and bus drivers, brought on by illness within the district, mostly due to COVID-19 infection.

Assistant Superintendent Nick Boling, Director of Pupil Personnel for the district, said while illness from such things as influenza or strep are common this time of year, the coronavirus has presented a different sort of challenge.

“It’s been a rather large hurdle for not only our district, but those in our region and across the state,” he said. “We’ve had illness in our schools for years, but COVID hits a bit differently. Students and staff seem to be affected by it very differently than things we have faced in the past.”

Boling said that NTI days were not used for the two days classes were dismissed due to the district wanting to assure student learning would be served in the correct manner.

“Using NTI days without adequate staff to meet the needs of students would be like spinning our wheels,” he said. “It is always best to have staff available for the students when they need help.”

The two days of missed classes will be made up on Feb. 21 and May 26, Superintendent Robby Asberry said in a statement released on district’s communications Facebook page.

The district is currently facing staffing shortages for full-time bus drivers, substitute drivers and substitute teachers.

“We could always use more staff members across those areas, including monitors and instructional assistants,” Boling said.

Boling said he remains in contact with professionals in surrounding districts to understand what is going on regionally.

“It would appear that our region is improving with (infection rates) and coming out of it,” he said. “Not any one person makes these types of decision in our district. We talk daily with our administrators, principals, teachers, those representing the different groups across our district. We are always looking for the options going forward; there’s no one single solution for another closure that might happen.”

Boling said there are numerous factors at play when it comes to decisions to dismiss classes or address staffing shortages due to illness.

“We monitor attendance on a daily basis to see where we are,” he said. “There are so many factors at play, no matter what might be behind it. There are always other factors behind these decisions.”

Boling said while he does not have hard numbers on the number of staff members who are fully vaccinated against coronavirus, he believes it is well over 50 percent among district staff.

“We can’t mandate that they reveal that information to us,” he said.

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Green River Health Department reported 1,729 new, confirmed cases in the health district Tuesday, with four deaths.

Hancock County reported 70 new cases, with one death. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 59,899 cases in the district, with 751 deaths. There have been 2,214 cases in Hancock County, with 22 deaths.

The incidence rate in the county is 242.4 per 100,000, with a vaccination rate of 65.59 percent, the highest in the eight-county health district.

The bulk of the cases in the district – 34 percent – have occurred among those 22 to 39 years of age.

By C. Josh Givens

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