Thomas Anderson, the Superintendent of New Bedford Public Schools, has decided to shift from a hybrid-learning situation to a fully remote situation for the days leading up to and immediately following the Christmas break.

At first, the decision seemed to make little sense. We've been told that our schools are fairly safe and not likely to be the source of COVID-19 clusters. That is still the case, according to Mayor Jon Mitchell. Mitchell tells me the homefront is still the most likely place where COVID would be shared and then spread.

So why close the schools in favor of remote learning from home? It's simple. There is not enough staff without having to rely upon substitute teachers. And Mitchell says the pool of subs is fairly depleted right now.

Mitchell says a significant number of teachers have either tested positive for COVID-19 or are in quarantine because they were exposed to someone who has tested positive for the virus. There simply are not enough teachers to man every classroom.

According to Mitchell, this comes at a time when substantive learning generally slows down for the holidays anyway, so a shift to at-home learning should not negatively impact the process at this time. The decision seems to make sense.

Mitchell and Anderson hope enough teachers can recover to fill the classrooms once the holidays are over so that hybrid learning can resume once more.

Our kids have suffered tremendously during this pandemic that now stretches over two school years. What is lost is lost and can never be regained. Let's hope the overall impact of all of this will be minimal and that this generation of students will be able to return to normalcy by the fall semester.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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