OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – For the last week, schools across the state have been struggling to keep their doors open due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases.

“We’re doing our best to try to keep kids in school if we can,” said Oklahoma City-County Health Department Deputy Chief Executive Officer Phil Maytubby. “It’s just becoming almost an impossibility with the transmissibility of omicron. In a lot of cases, they don’t have options because they don’t have any teachers. I mean, the teachers are out. You’ve got to have teachers to teach.”

On Jan. 11, Mid-Del Public Schools announced that it would be closing for several days to try and recover from the number of COVID-19 cases in the district.

“Not only are student and teacher absences at critically high levels; we also are seeing increased staff shortages in our kitchens, on our buses, and among our substitute teaching pool. Our teachers have been extraordinarily pressed into service all school year covering classes. The level we have reached this week is simply unsustainable. Unfortunately, our community is one of the hottest spots in the state right now for the Omicron Variant of Covid-19,” the letter to parents read.

That news caught the attention of Oklahoma Secretary of Education Ryan Walters.

“The first reaction should not be to shut schools down. It is the last resort. Parents are tired and children suffer when administrators act out of fear and not in the best interests of their kids and their future,” he posted on Twitter. “I call on schools to use all of their available resources and administrative staff to cover classes to ensure all of our students are given an in person education option. They should fulfill their obligation to educate our kids in Oklahoma.”

His tweet received backlash from teachers, principals, support staff, and superintendents who say they are doing everything they can to keep the doors open. However, the latest variant is simply infecting too many people, including educators.

“With all due respect sir, my colleagues and students are sick. We are using plans to cover classes. We are combining classes. We love our students and want what is best for our communities. Why would you try and turn the public against us?” tweeted Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Jena Nelson.

“It’s insulting that you think this is any district’s ‘first reaction.’ We’ve been pulling all available staff to cover classes. The fact that #oklaed schools and districts have maintained instruction as long as we have shows your complete lack of situational understanding,” tweeted Mid-Del Superintendent Dr. Rick Cobb.

“I am very disappointed by Secretary Walters’ comments criticizing school administrators for shifting schools to remote learning. Pointing fingers and blaming school leaders who are forced to make tough decisions due to rising COVID infections and staff shortages is not productive.

Instead of attacking educators and school principals, we should be working together to address the problem. Our top priority should be the safety of our children. As a parent and former teacher, I know that students learn best in the classroom. We must do everything we can to defeat the epidemic, so our students will have a safe learning environment.

Unfortunately, the recent surge in COVID cases due to the Omicron variant has caused critical staffing shortages in schools throughout our state. Schools can’t continue in-person instruction when there aren’t enough teachers or substitutes to teach the classes.

When schools take the difficult step of temporarily adopting remote learning, we should make sure our educators have the resources and support, including the technology, to help our students adapt and provide them with innovative virtual instruction.

These are extraordinarily challenging times for educators, parents, and students, but together we will get through this.”

Sen. Carri Hicks said in a statement.

Earlier this week, a dozen school districts across the state announced that they were moving to virtual learning for the rest of the week due to COVID-19.

On Thursday, Secretary Walters decided to fill in as a substitute teacher at Santa Fe South, a public charter school in Oklahoma City.

“If you are looking for your Secretary of Education @GovStitt, we borrowed him for the day. Practicing what he preaches. Happy to take any more staff you would let us have to teach classes over the next few days!” Superintendent Chris Brewster tweeted.

Employees at the school told KFOR that Walters taught the first and second classes of the day at the school before leaving for a meeting.