MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) -- Due to the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, the Mobile County Public School System will switch to online learning next week.

“We are unable to now adequately staff our schools because of the number of our employees who have caught COVID or who are having to isolate due to it,” said Rena Philips with the Mobile County Public School System

Philips said as of now there are 450-500 employees out sick.

“That includes teachers, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, administrators,” she said.

Teachers spent the day uploading assignments to Schoology. Students were also sent home with paper copies and instructions for those who may not have internet access at home.

“It’s not like the live lessons we did at the beginning of last school year," added Philips. "Instead we’re adding that flexibility for our families because we understand this isn’t the easiest thing to do.”

The school closures also include after-school activities. Middle school and JV sports will be canceled while varsity sports will go on as scheduled with limited spectators.

The school system is hoping enough faculty members have recovered in time for in-person learning to resume on Jan. 24.

“We’re looking at the number of positive COVID cases which we post on our website every day. We’ve also been surveying our schools every day, Mr. Threadgill has, to find out how many employees were absent, what their positions were, how long they would be out,” says Philips.

Philips says they will continue to monitor cases while students and teachers are at home. More than anything they urge parents and students to stay safe so there won’t be another rise in cases when students return to school.

“Please be careful, please continue to wear your mask when you’re in public, please social distance, and if your child is sick when we come back please keep them home,” Philips said.

The Mobile County Public School System also says school lunches will be put on hold next week. If any more changes are needed parents can expect another email next week.

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