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Boston Superintendent Brenda Cassellius Fills In As Fourth Grade Teacher Amid Staffing Shortage

BOSTON (CBS) – Superintendent Dr. Brenda Cassellius took on a different role Wednesday in the middle of a staffing shortage in Boston schools – classroom teacher.

Cassellius and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu have described the return from winter break as an "all hands on deck" situation with COVID-related absences continuing to grow among school staff.

A total of 1,000 staff members were out sick Tuesday, the first day students were back from winter break. That number included 461 classroom teachers. Not all of the absences were COVID-related.

A day later, Cassellius was needed at Nathan Hale School as a substitute fourth grade teacher. On Wednesday, 1,100 staff members, including 658 teachers and 300 paraprofessionals, were absent. There were also 47 buses without a driver.

"Last night I was in the office at about 9 p.m. and I noticed that my chief of schools was still here. I gave him a ring and said 'Why are you still here this late?' He was trying to find coverage for the Nathan Hale School today," Cassellius said. "So I jumped into gear and said I'll clear my calendar and go over and teach a fourth grade class."

Earlier in the week, Cassellius said many central office staff members are licensed teachers who would be willing to step into the classroom if needed. On Wednesday, about 60 central office employees were working in schools.

Cassellius said she hasn't taught in about two decades, but was looking forward to helping students learn poetry and math.

The superintendent said the district is hoping to do whatever it can to keep students learning in person. So far, no classes have been canceled despite the staffing shortages.

Jeri Robinson, chair of Boston School Committee, is substitute teaching K-1 Wednesday at Nathan Hale School, which she attended in the 1950s.

"Our kids need to be in school. We're committed to getting them and keeping them in school. So here we are," Robinson said.

Student attendance was 71% on Wednesday.

As of Tuesday, there were 517 new COVID cases in the district. Of those, 228 were staff members and 289 were students.

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