BALDWIN, Pa. (KDKA) – As students head back to school, many are greeted by substitute teachers and smaller classrooms.

KDKA’s Meghan Schiller checked in with a few local districts as superintendents try to navigate higher case counts in the new year.

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Students are testing positive, but the district leaders KDKA talked to Tuesday say it’s the teachers, bus drivers and cafeteria workers getting sick that could threaten a future closure.

The superintendents at Baldwin Whitehall and Bethel Park tell KDKA’s Meghan Schiller they’re no longer required to temporarily close a building if cases hit a certain number, but they’re facing serious staffing shortages. Most districts are dealing with teachers testing positive and tell KDKA the substitute pool dried up long ago.

Baldwin Superintendent Dr. Randy Lutz will rely on the possibility of COVID-positive teachers giving instruction from home with the kids in the classroom.

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“So, if a teacher is going to miss for 10 days, then kids aren’t getting that content, but if the teacher is still able to teach from home we can put the substitute in the classroom just for classroom management purposes, then kids can still keep coming to school, but the ability to do that is less than less, they were just running out of people,” said Dr. Lutz.

Bethel Park’s Superintendent Dr. James Walsh tells KDKA it’s dealing with sick bus drivers, forcing him to alert parents Tuesday afternoon to canceled bus routes.

“Sadly, we’ve been unable to complete some of our longer specialty runs and, finally, like this week we’ve got I think as many as five of our drivers out with COVID,” said Dr. Walsh. “And so, there’s a very real possibility that we’re going to miss some bus runs.”

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In the Butler Area School District, Superintendent Dr. Brian White posted a message on the district’s website, saying they’re going to need to get creative. One suggestion he mentioned: moving a classroom with a cluster of positive cases into a larger room to allow for more social distancing.

Meghan Schiller