Staff Shortage, Illnesses, Burnout: GIPS Superintendent Cancels School, Calls for Mental Health Day

Sept. 23, 2021, 3:37 p.m. ·

Grand Island Public Schools.jpg
Grand Island Public Schools (Photo Courtesy of GIPS)

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Nebraska Public Media's Jackie Ourada spoke with Grand Island Public Schools' Superintendent Dr. Tawana Grover on the district's decision to cancel class Friday, Sept. 24. The district said a staffing shortage, a rise in illnesses and a sense of burnout prompted them to cancel class.

Dr Tawana Grover
Grand Island Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tawana Grover (Photo Courtesy GIPS)

One of Nebraska's largest school districts will take the day off Friday, Sept. 24, because it doesn't have enough substitute teachers to fill its classrooms.

The Grand Island Public School district made the announcement Wednesday. Dr. Tawana Grover, the district's superintendent, said the schools are facing multiple challenges right now: a shortage of staff, more sick students and teachers, and an overall sense of burnout. Dr. Grover said staff and students aren't just out with an increasing number of COVID-19 cases; the schools are seeing a rise in RSV, strep throat and hand foot and mouth disease.

The school district implemented a mask mandate for students and staff on August 10.

With teachers out and a shortage of substitute teachers, staff members are having to cover multiple classrooms, which Dr. Grover said is adding to the burnout. Dr. Grover said staff and students need a rest and 'reset' day. The district said it will be looking at adding more scheduled mental health days when it looks at its school calendar at a board meeting in October. It will also be launching a new campaign next week to recruit more substitute teachers.

Meals will still be available for students Friday. The district said scheduled activities will still take place.

Grand Island is one of Nebraska's largest school districts with 9,920 enrolled students and 714 teachers, according to the Nebraska Department of Education.