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Alabama facing shortage of school workers during pandemic

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The head of the Alabama Department of Education says that state schools are facing a shortage of workers that’s being made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

State Superintendent Eric Mackey told WBRC-TV that schools can’t find enough substitute teachers, bus drivers or nurses. The problem existed last year, he said, and the pandemic has made it worse.

Retirees often fill positions including substitute teachers, and many aren’t comfortable being in schools right now because of health concerns.

“There’s really not much we can do except to continue to recruit, to continue to try and work with them,” he said.

Trucking companies are hiring many people who might otherwise drive school buses since they have commercial driver licenses, Mackey said. Some bus drivers will have to double up and run two routes if more drivers can’t be hired, he said.

More than 1,900 people have died in Alabama of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, and more than 107,000 cases have been confirmed. While the disease causes only minor to moderate symptoms for most people, it’s particularly dangerous for the elderly and people with other health problems.

State schools have restarted classes with a mix of traditional teaching and virtual lessons.

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