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El Paso school districts say staff absences increase as expert predicts more Americans will call in sick this week

KVIA

EL PASO, Texas– Following the holidays, Americans are predicted to call in sick after a global wave of Covid-19 illness keeps people stuck at home isolated. 

Andrew Hunter, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, told the Wall Street Journal that he predicts more than five million Americans will be staying home from work after being exposed to the Omicron variant.

School districts like Socorro ISD and El Paso ISD have seen increased staff absences.

A spokesperson for SISD tells ABC-7 the number of teacher and student absences is showing a steady increase from Jan. 5 to Jan. 7.

In only those two days, an increase of nearly 200 teachers called in. 

It is not clear if these absences are Covid related, but a spokesman for EPISD, Gustavo Reveles, said that as of Monday, 900 staff members have called in sick due to Covid, a significant increase compared to the week before.

With substitutes hard to find, Reveles said the district has had to get creative.

Moving administrative personnel with the proper certifications into classrooms or even driving school buses if they have the license. 

"Be patient; work with us. We're all going to get through this, and the school district is planning and trying its hardest to make sure that the high level of services that we provide are still there, but obviously given the challenges of the pandemic that we're going to see a little bit of a creative way of dealing with this issue," said Reveles.

Veronica Hernandez, president of the Socorro American Federation of Teachers, told ABC-7 that staff are forced to lend a helping hand during these challenging times. 

As the absences increase, Hernandez said that teachers now have to adapt by increasing class sizes.

Hernandez said they try to get more substitutes to fill in, but that's also been a challenge, even with increased pay incentives. 

Arlinda Valencia, president of the Ysleta Teachers Association, said that just last week, in one school, 20 teachers were out, but only eight were able to receive subs. The others were left to teach double the number of classes.

Valencia said that students have even been moved to gyms for capacity purposes in some cases.

While both agree that the classroom is the best setting for students to learn, they said this could be detrimental to students trying to learn.

"Not having your teacher there is going to hurt the child because they are not getting the best instruction that they can," said Valencia.

"Sometimes we just have to put on our different hats and cooperate as much as we can and hope we can continue to fight this pandemic head-on, as much as we can," said Hernandez.

Brianna Perez

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