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Staff shortages due to COVID-19 force five Syracuse schools to go remote

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Tom Magnarelli
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WRVO Public Media File Photo

About 3,000 students in the Syracuse City School District will be learning remotely for at least the rest of the week.

Superintendent Jaime Alicea said there is a shortage of essential staff at Clary Middle School, Dr. Weeks Elementary School, Ed Smith Pre-K-8 School, Frazer Pre-K-8 School, and Seymour Dual Language Academy. Families were notified Monday the schools will have to temporarily close.

"I hope that they understand that we look at every option out there,” said Alicea. “We have a need for some staff. It is not available at this time, and we are going to continue to support the students, and we're going to continue to support the staff."

COVID-19 numbers have been hitting records across central New York after the arrival of the more contagious Omicron variant. Alicea said over the weekend, more than 250 people called in sick across the district, and only about 50 substitutes were available. He said the district is working on finding solutions.

“During the month of December, we conducted a lot of interviews. We identified 82 more subs, so they are going through the process of the clearance, background check, all of that, so we are hoping to have more subs available within the next week or two.”

Additionally, the district is hoping to stem the spread of COVID-19 by handing out home testing kits to families. As of Monday afternoon, the district had distributed more than 6,000 kits. Officials are encouraging parents to test students Monday and Wednesday of this week and report any positive results to the district.

"My goal and the goal of the Board of Education is to keep our school open,” said Alicea. “This is the way we can continue to educate our students, and we have taken a lot of precautions to make sure that our schools are safe."

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.