Grainger County Schools’ parents react to closure due to staffing shortage


GRAINGER COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — A shortage of school bus drivers and substitute teachers kept students in one district home on Friday. Superindentent of Grainger County Schools James Adkins said he had no choice.

“You don’t have enough teachers or bus drivers you can’t have school,” said Cindy Roberts who has a 16-year-old daughter enrolled in the Grainger County School District.

For some parents like Roberts and Darla Daniels, the notice of schools closing Friday wasn’t an issue. “Fortunately for me I am self-employed,” said Daniels. “So I can always mark out or reschedule a client if I need to go pick up my son.”

Both Roberts and Daniels are hairdressers and can rearrange their schedules to meet their children’s needs, but for Mary Mincey who’s the manager at Little Dippers, the school closing meant rearranging the entire employee schedule.

“My child’s already out of school but I have a lot of workers who have children in the schools,” Mincey said. She added that all but one of those parents called out of work on Friday.

Superintendent James Atkins said the closure was ultimately related to COVID-19. Atkins said in a statement, “For weeks, I have said that we may have to shut down by Labor Day due to either a shortage of bus drivers or a shortage of substitutes. This is something that all school systems are facing.”

Cindy Roberts said the school board is doing the best they can in these circumstances related to COVID, “That took away teachers it took away bus drivers and students in every school so it makes it really hard to have school when you don’t have people to run it.”

Roberts adds that she was excited to see her daughter go back to in-person school this year, but now she’s thinking there may need to be a new plan in place, “It started off really well but then it kind of went south.”

Darla Daniels wonders if virtual learning part-time might help, “They really need that interaction with the teachers and them to need that social interaction so I think that virtual is going to be hard if it’s a full-time thing but maybe going back doing partial again might be the answer to help some of the shortage.”

Dr. Adkins continues in his statement to say, “First and foremost, my concern is for the health and safety of our faculty, staff, and students. I think we need to look at some current policies in light of how prevalent COVID is within our school system.”

Right now there is no word on if schools will be opened or closed come Monday.

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