Fourteen teachers in the high school are out on family and medical leave and a number of others have taken medical sabbaticals.By Nicole Ford

BEAVER, Pa. (KDKA) – Just this week, Beaver Area School District changed their back to school plans again. Starting Monday, only students kindergarten through eighth grade will return to in-person classes while the high school will be fully remote.

“Recently we’ve had some operational issues at our high school specifically related to leave of absences that teachers are taking for legitimate reasons,” said Superintendent Carrie Rowe.

Rowe told KDKA 14 teachers in the high school are out on family and medical leave and a number of others have taken medical sabbaticals.

“This is the perfect storm of individuals who had surgeries or procedures planned for this summer that were put off until they could be done which is now,” Rowe said.

The lack of staffing for the fall led to the school board voting to move just the high school from the hybrid model to remote learning.

“It’s not as simple as just saying ‘go out and get just anybody to be in the classroom,'” Rowe said.

In fact, there are different types of substitute teachers from emergency to certified and Rowe said it’s never easy to find someone qualified to fill the holes.

“With COVID there are more concerns with ventilation and does the virus live on surfaces? Is that worth $85 dollars a day or $100 a day?” Rowe said.

When it comes to substitute teachers, Rowe said the district has found the answer to that question is no.

“I don’t know if they’d be able to trace back where the teacher had it if they were positive. Were the kids exposed, were other adults in the school exposed, would I then be exposed if I came in to sub?” said Kim Douglass, who’s spent the last year substitute teaching.

At Beaver Valley Intermediate Unit, the group is hosting an emergency substitute teacher certification training.

“We can take folks who have a bachelor degree and we can emergency certify them to work in a single assignment up to 20 days,” said BVIU Director Eric Rosendale.

Rosendale said this won’t fix the big teacher shortage problem, but can provide extra help to the districts when needed.

Rowe told KDKA the school board will reevaluate the staffing issues at its next board meeting in September. At that point, the high school could return to hybrid learning.