SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM)--Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education met Tuesday to discuss updates on schools reopening this year and challenges they are facing as all students are back in the classrooms.
One of Tuesday's topics commissioner Jeffrey Riley addressed was how the labor shortage Massachusetts is facing is also impacting school districts across the state.
"In the education space, we have some staffing struggles in a few spaces," said DESE Commissioner Jeffrey Riley.
The labor shortage being felt across the country due to the coronavirus pandemic is also hitting local school districts.
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education met on Tuesday to provide updates on this year’s reopening, one that has not fallen short of challenges.
Commissioner Riley cited impacts school districts in the Bay State have seen due to the labor shortage. Two issues require the help of the Massachusetts government.
"At the beginning of the school year, we saw that some districts were unable to get enough bus drivers to come and transport the kids. So working with the administration we stepped in to bring in the national guard to solve the problem," said Riley.
Here in western Mass. Holyoke public schools have been receiving assistance from the National Guard on six of their bus routes.
The National Guard has also been called in to assist with COVID-19 pool testing in several districts across the state.
Both Chicopee and Agawam Public Schools told Western Mass News they are able to handle the testing on their own.
Last week, the Amherst School District told us they were unsure if the National Guard would be assisting their district but on Tuesday, Amherst superintendent Michael Morris said he received word they will have enough staff to run testing.
"The National Guard was intended by the state to be a stopguard until staffing was caught up in districts have what they need to move forward. Our vendor told us that they had the staffing stop guard of our schools so we are excited for that to get going next week," said Morris.
Commissioner Riley praised the state’s test and stay program, which tests students and staff that are close contacts to COVID and allows them to remain in classrooms rather than in quarantine.
"And to date because of this program we have already saved over 35,000 school days for kids that would have been outside of school had we not had this program," said Commissioner Riley.
One other challenge Commissioner Riley addressed is the food shortage some schools are facing and said he is working closely with superintendents and food vendors to make sure all kids are fed.