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James Harden’s mysterious Instagram storey left NBA fans really puzzled in the midst of a business chat.

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James Harden's mysterious Instagram storey left NBA fans really puzzled in the midst of a business chat.

The James Harden will-he-be-traded saga took a good turn on Monday night.

There was a suggestion from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the Houston Rockets superstar had refused the expansion of the franchise and pressed for a deal in the Brooklyn Nets, where he will partner up again with Kevin Durant and be part of the All-Star trio of Kyrie Irving.

It was in the midst of all that hype that Harden put something on his Instagram story: a video of him taking the cap off a bottle of water and setting it on the table.

What does that mean by that? Ok, no cap” typically means “no lie.” But is Harden pointing the cap to say that something out of the world isn’t true?

This is the video:

And here’s some sort of reaction, with NBA fans questioning what it meant:

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Travel industry taking another hit as COVID cases rise, airlines warn

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Travel industry taking another hit as COVID cases rise, airlines warn

In this June 16, 2020 file photo, a traveler wears a mask and protective goggles as he walks through Terminal 3 at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

DALLAS (AP) — Several leading U.S. airlines warned Thursday that the rise in COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant is hurting their bookings and further delaying recovery for the travel industry.

American Airlines said a slowdown that started in August has continued into September, and the airline further lowered its outlook for third-quarter revenue.

In another regulatory filing, United Airlines said its flying and revenue are both weaker than previously expected, and it is cutting its schedule for later this year to match the lower demand. United forecast a pretax loss in the third quarter that could extend into the fourth quarter if the virus outbreak continues.

Delta Air Lines said it still expects to post an adjusted pretax profit for the third quarter, but revenue will be toward the lower end of its previous forecast.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the rise in COVID-19 cases won’t derail the travel recovery but will delay it by 90 to 120 days. He said the variant has particularly affected business and international travel, which are both critical to the largest U.S. airlines.

Southwest Airlines reported that leisure travel, too, has weakened, with more cancellations and softer bookings for September and October.

Southwest said, however, that demand over the Labor Day holiday was solid other than cancellations that it attributed to Hurricane Ida’s aftermath, and it said booking patterns for the winter holidays look normal.

Shares of all four airlines fell 1% to 2% minutes after regular trading opened on Thursday.

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Cabbage Patch Kids, garden-variety sand lead Toy Hall of Fame finalists

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Cabbage Patch Kids, garden-variety sand lead Toy Hall of Fame finalists

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — Cabbage Patch Kids, the rosy-cheeked dolls that left store shelves picked clean during the first big holiday toy craze, are up for a spot in the National Toy Hall of Fame, part of a finalist group announced Wednesday that also includes garden-variety sand and the toy fire engine.

Also among the finalists being considered for a November induction are five competitive games: Battleship, Risk, The Settlers of Catan, Mahjong, and billiards, as well as the piñata, American Girl Dolls, Masters of the Universe, and Fisher-Price Corn Popper.

The 2021 finalists were pulled from the thousands of nominations the National Toy Hall of Fame receives each year. Anyone can nominate a toy and a panel of experts, along with input from the public, votes in the three to be inducted. The 74 previous honorees have run the gamut from the simplest cardboard box and stick to the groundbreaking Atari 2600 Game System and universally known Checkers, Crayola crayons, and marbles.

To be inducted, toys must have withstood tests of time and memory, changed play or toy design, and fostered learning, creativity or discovery.

All of the 2021 finalists have “greatly influenced the world of play,” said Christopher Bensch, vice president for collections at the hall, which is located inside The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York.

“These 12 toys represent the wide scope of playthings—from one of the most universal playthings in the world like sand to a game-changing board game like Risk to the popular adult game of billiards,” Bensch said.

Fans are invited to vote for their favorites as part of a “Player’s Choice” ballot that closes on Sept. 22.

The three toys that receive the most public votes will be submitted as one ballot to be counted with the 22 other top-three ballots submitted by the National Selection Advisory Committee, effectively making the public one member of the committee.

The winners will be inducted on Nov. 4.

About this year’s nominees:

– American Girl Dolls: Created in 1986 by educator and newscaster Pleasant Rowland, each doll comes with a narrative that reflects an era of American history.

– Battleship: Originally played with paper and pencil, Milton Bradley’s 1967 plastic adaptation popularized the two-person strategy game. It was among the first board games to be computerized in 1979.

– Billiards: Commonly known as pool in the United States, the game evolved from earlier European outdoor games and became popular in the 1800s.

– Cabbage Patch Kids: The dolls, each unique, were launched in 1979. Complete with adoption papers, they were the must-have holiday toy of 1983, paving the way for Tickle Me Elmo, Beanie Babies, and Furby that followed.

– Fisher-Price Corn Popper: Introduced in 1957, the push-toy got toddlers walking, mesmerized by bright flying balls and the popping sound.

– Mahjong: The gambling card game that originated in China became popular in the United States in the 1920s.

– Masters of the Universe: He-Man, She-Ra, and the line’s other action figures became popular through Mattel’s use of comic books and television, including the cartoon series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, from 1983 to 1985.

– Piñata: The treat-filled paper mache object is commonly associated with Mexican culture but may date back to early 13th-century China.

– Risk: The strategy board game first published in the United States in 1959 challenges players to control armies and conquer the world.

– Sand: The substance is perhaps the most universal and oldest toy in the world, according to the National Toy Hall of Fame.

– The Settlers of Catan: The cooperative board game now called “Catan” was first published in Germany. Players representing settlers establish a settlement on an island by spending resources, which are earned through trade and rolls of the dice.

– Toy fire engine: Materials, design and technology have evolved but the appeal has remained.

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Rolling Stones open American tour in St. Louis, pay tribute to late drummer Charlie Watts

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Rolling Stones open American tour in St. Louis, pay tribute to late drummer Charlie Watts

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Rolling Stones are touring again, this time without their heartbeat, or at least their backbeat.

The legendary rockers launched their pandemic-delayed “No Filter” tour Sunday at the Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis without their drummer of nearly six decades. It was clear from the outset just how much the band members — and the fans — missed Charlie Watts, who died last month at age 80. Except for a private show in Massachusetts last week, the St. Louis concert was their first since Watts’ death.

The show opened with an empty stage and only a drumbeat, with photos of Watts flashing on the video board. After the second song, a rousing rendition of “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It),” Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Ronnie Wood came to the front of the stage. Jagger and Richards clasped hands as they thanked fans for the outpouring of support and love for Watts. Jagger acknowledged it was emotional seeing the photos of Watts.

“This is our first-ever tour we’ve ever done without him,” Jagger said. “We’ll miss Charlie so much, on and off the stage.”

The band then dedicated “Tumbling Dice” to Watts.

The tour had been scheduled for 2020 before the coronavirus virtually shut down the touring industry. Signs of the pandemic were everywhere at the show in Missouri, a state hit hard by the virus’s delta variant.

The tens of thousands of fans wore masks as required by St. Louis’ anti-virus protocol. The Stones themselves appeared in a public service announcement urging anyone with symptoms to stay home. A vaccination site was set up at the dome, with plans for similar sites at each tour stop.

The concert itself featured the same driving beat personified by Watts, thanks to his replacement, Steve Jordan. The drummer may be new to fans but he’s hardly new to the Stones — Jordan has performed for years with Richards’ side project, X-Pensive Winos, along with many other leading acts.

Still, die-hard fans couldn’t help but miss Watts, widely considered one of rock’s greatest drummers, even though his real love was jazz. He joined Jagger and Richards in the Rolling Stones in 1963. Wood joined in 1975.

For Laura Jezewski, 62, of Omaha, Nebraska, seeing the Stones without Watts was bittersweet.

“It’s really sad,” she said. “He’s the first of the old Stones to pass away.”

The show featured the band’s long litany of hits. Jagger hardly looked like a 78-year-old man, strutting around the stage like a man half — or one-third of his age; a constant whirl of motion. His vocals, and the guitar work of Wood and Richards, sounded as good as ever.

After St. Louis, the tour will include stops in Charlotte, North Carolina; Pittsburgh; Nashville, Tennessee; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Tampa, Florida; Dallas; Atlanta; Detroit; and ending in Austin, Texas, on Nov. 20. The band also added new dates in Los Angeles on Oct. 14 and Oct. 17, and a concert in Las Vegas on Nov. 6.

Jezewski and her 60-year-old husband, Brad, brought their 30-year-old daughter, Sarah, to St. Louis for the concert. It was Sarah’s first chance to see the Rolling Stones. Her mom and dad have seen them in various places — Ames, Iowa; Boulder, Colorado; Denver; even Wichita, Kansas — dating back to the 1970s.

With the surviving band members well into their 70s, the Jezewskis didn’t want to miss this chance.

“If it is their last time — we’re here,” Brad Jezewski said. “And if there’s another tour, we’ll be there, too.”

By JIM SALTER, Associated Press

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With moratorium over, St. Louis sheriff now free to carry out evictions

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With moratorium over, St. Louis sheriff now free to carry out evictions

ST. LOUIS – The You Paid For It Team is speaking with St. Louis Sheriff Vernon Betts, who has resumed evictions following the lifting of the eviction moratorium.

At present, there is a backlog of about 130 eviction cases in St. Louis.

Sheriff Betts says he’s not fielding extra crews at the moment and will just use the current two-person crew to handle the job.

Betts says landlords must go to circuit court and get a judge’s order for eviction. Once a person is notified by the sheriff, they have three days to vacate the residence.

Betts thought there would be a lot more evictions but that can still happen.

Meanwhile, there are still resources in the city to help struggling families pay their rent. A spokesperson for Mayor Tishaura Jones says people can call 2-1-1 to get more information on the city’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

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Downtown crime tempers excitement for some fans attending Rolling Stones concert

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Downtown crime tempers excitement for some fans attending Rolling Stones concert

ST. LOUIS – The Rolling Stones hit the stage inside The Dome at America’s Center on Sunday evening, more than a year after the show was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the coronavirus is not the only concern for people traveling downtown, as crime has many cautious about coming to the area.

St. Louis was lucky enough to be chosen as the first stop for The Rolling Stones on their long-awaited No Filter Tour. With over 66,000 people traveling from near and far to attend the concert, safety is a main priority.

Last weekend alone, St. Louis had over 20 shootings, including 8 homicides. Many fans found other means of transportation to the show due to reported carjackings, break-ins, and robberies in the area.  

Because of the massive crowds, there was an increased police and security presence to ensure everyone is safe and enjoying this historical moment for all rock ‘n roll fans.

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Young Cardinals fan donates allowance to Adam Wainwright’s charity

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Wainwright reaches 2,000 strike-out milestone

ST. LOUIS – Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright was in Chicago this weekend to support his teammates as they continued their winning ways against the Cubs.

Hours after the Cardinals clinched their 16th consecutive win, Wainwright shared a story on his Twitter feed about a young fan who melted his heart.

Wainwright describes meeting Emery and her mother in both Milwaukee and Chicago. Emery gave Wainwright a letter on Sunday, saying she was happy to meet him and congratulated him on his 2,000th strikeout.

Emery’s letter, which she handed to Waino just before Harrison Bader clocked a home run in the top of the eighth inning, also included a plastic bag filled with dollars and coins. It was her allowance money. She gave it to Wainwright for his charity, Big League Impact.

“I hope it will help you help more people,” Emery wrote.

She also gave Wainwright her own autograph, “if I ever get famous.”

Wainwright joked Emery may be a good luck charm for the team and thinks she may have to come to some October games if and when the Cardinals make the playoffs.

Big League Impact is a nonprofit with goals of making clean water accessible, reducing hunger, and ending poverty. The organization has raised more than $5.8 million since its inception in 2013.

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FA-18 fighter plane in Forest Park to receive overdue maintenance and cleaning

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FA-18 fighter plane in Forest Park to receive overdue maintenance and cleaning

ST. LOUIS – A piece of aviation history in Forest Park will get a touch-up early this week. The COVID pandemic disrupted the plane’s routine maintenance last year.

A piece of aviation history in Forest Park will get a touch-up early this week. The COVID pandemic disrupted the plane’s routine maintenance last year.

“This is an important display and we want it looking good and we want to make a good impression for St. Louis and all visitors,” said Diane Earhart, a member of the Greater St. Louis Ninety-Nines and spokesperson for Big River Aviation.

Earhart is referring to is the retired FA-18 fighter plane that has called Forest Park home for more than a decade. 

“The airplane is traditionally cleaned and restored. Any touch-up (or) repainting is taken care of,” Earhart said.

The National Naval Aviation Museum permanently loaned the fighter plane to the St. Louis Science Center in 2010.  

On Tuesday, volunteers will begin sprucing up this piece of aviation history.  

“Being on permanent display, obviously, it’s subject to all kinds of weather in St. Louis,” Earhart said. “From 0 degree to 100 degrees and all of the elements, it just needs some tender love and care.” 

Earhart said the work is usually done by the owner of Big River Aviation and the labor fee paid by the St. Louis Science Center is donated to a local charity.  

“This year, the charitable organization is the Ninety-Nines; and they’re going to use the donation for the Adela Scharr Scholarship Fund,” Earhart said.

Adela Scharr was a pioneer for women in the aviation industry.  

“She was a public school teacher for many years,” Earhart said. “She was also the first commercial pilot and first ground and flight instructor at Lambert Airport and one of the first members of the Ninety-Nines and what is now the Greater St. Louis Ninety-Nines.” 

More than a dozen volunteers will give the FA-18 the attention it didn’t get last year because of the pandemic.   

“It’ll be scrubbed down really well and get all the dirt and everything off of it,” Earhart said. “We’re going to make her shine.”

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“Moulin Rouge! The Musical” sashays home with 10 Tony Awards

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“Moulin Rouge! The Musical” sashays home with 10 Tony Awards

NEW YORK — “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” a jukebox adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s hyperactive 2001 movie, won the best new musical crown at the Tony Awards on a Sunday night when Broadway looked back to honor shows shuttered by COVID-19, mourn its fallen and also look forward to welcoming audiences again.

The show about the goings-on in a turn-of-the-century Parisian nightclub, updated with tunes like “Single Ladies” and “Firework” alongside the big hit “Lady Marmalade,” won 10 Tonys. The record is 12, won by “The Producers.”

Producer Carmen Pavlovic said after what Broadway has been through the last 18 months it felt strange to be considered the best. She dedicated the award to every show that closed, opened, nearly opened or was fortunate to be reborn.

“The Inheritance” by Matthew Lopez was named the best new play, and Charles Fuller’s “A Soldier’s Play” won best play revival.

Lopez’s two-part, seven-hour epic uses “Howards End” as a starting point for a play that looks at gay life in the early 21st century. It also yielded wins for Andrew Burnap as best actor in a play, Stephen Daldry as best director, and Lois Smith as best performance by an actress in a featured role in a play.

Thomas Kirdahy, a producer, dedicated the award to his late husband, the playwright Terrence McNally. Lopez, the first Latin writer to win in the category, urged more plays to be produced from the Latin community. “We have so many stories inside us aching to come out. Let us tell you our stories,” he said.

The pandemic-delayed telecast kicked off with an energetic performance of “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from original Broadway cast members of “Hairspray!” Jennifer Holliday also took the stage to deliver an unforgettable rendition of “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” from the musical “Dreamgirls.”

The singers performed for a masked and appreciative audience at a packed Winter Garden Theatre. Host Audra McDonald got a standing ovation when she took the stage. “You can’t stop the beat. The heart of New York City!” she said.

“Moulin Rouge! The Musical” won for scenic design, costume, lighting, sound design, orchestrations and a featured acting Tony for Broadway favorite Danny Burstein. Sonya Tayeh won for choreography on her Broadway debut, and Alex Timbers won the trophy for best direction of a musical.

In a surprise to no one, Aaron Tveit won the award for best leading actor in a musical for “Moulin Rouge! The Musical.” That’s because he was the only person nominated in the category. He thanked a long list of people, including his parents, brother, agents, manager and the cast and crew. “We are so privileged to get to do this,” he said, tearing up. “Because what we do changes peoples’ lives.”

Burstein, who won for featured actor in a musical and had not won six previous times, thanked the Broadway community for supporting him after the death last year of his wife, Rebecca Luker. “You were there for us, whether you just sent a note or sent your love, sent your prayers — sent bagels — it meant the world to us, and it’s something I’ll never forget.”

David Alan Grier won featured actor in a play for his role in “A Soldier’s Play,” which dissects entrenched Black-white racism as well as internal divisions in the Black military community during World War II. “To my other nominees: Tough bananas, I won,” he said. On stage, the director Kenny Leon recited the names Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, killed by police. “We will never, ever forget you.”

Adrienne Warren won the Tony for best leading actress in a musical for her electric turn as Tina Turner in “Tina — The Tina Turner Musical.” Warren was considered the front-runner for the award thanks to becoming a one-woman fireball of energy and exhilaration. She dedicated the win to three family members she lost while playing Turner — and thanked Turner herself.

Mary-Louise Parker won her second best lead actress Tony Award, winning for playing a Yale professor who treasures great literature but has made no room in her life for someone to share that love with in “The Sound Inside.” She thanked her dog, whom she was walking in the rain when she bumped into Mandy Greenfield from the Williamstown Theatre Festival, who told her about the play.

Burnap made his Broadway debut in “The Inheritance.” He thanked his mom, and the University of Rhode Island and joked that he felt grateful because “I got to act for seven hours.”

The sobering musical “Jagged Little Pill,” which plumbs Alanis Morissette’s 1995 breakthrough album to tell a story of an American family spiraling out of control, came into the night with a leading 15 Tony nominations. It won for best book, and Lauren Patten won the award for best featured actress in a musical.

“A Christmas Carol” cleaned up with five technical awards: scenic design of a play, costumes, lighting, sound design and score. No one from the production was on hand to accept any of the awards.

Members of Broadway’s royalty — Norm Lewis, Kelli O’Hara and Brian Stokes Mitchell — mourned the list of those who have died, which included icons like McNally, Harold Prince and Larry Kramer.

“Slave Play,” Jeremy O. Harris’ ground-breaking, bracing work that mixes race, sex, taboo desires and class, earned a dozen nominations, making it the most nominated play in Tony history. But it won nothing.

Sunday’s show was expanded from its typical three hours to four, with McDonald handing out Tonys for the first two hours and Leslie Odom Jr. hosting a “Broadway’s Back!” celebration for the second half with performances from the three top musicals.

The live special also included David Byrne and the cast of “American Utopia” playing “Burning Down the House” to a standing and clapping crowd. Byrne told them they might not remember how to dance after so long but they were welcome to try.

John Legend and the cast of “Ain’t Too Proud” performed “My Girl” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” and Josh Groban and Odom Jr. sang “Beautiful City” from “Godspell,” dedicating it to educators. And Ben Platt and Anika Noni Rose sang “Move On” from “Sunday in the Park with George.”

This season’s nominations were pulled from just 18 eligible plays and musicals from the 2019-2020 season, a fraction of the 34 shows the previous season. During most years, there are 26 competitive categories. This year there are 25 with several depleted ones.

The last Tony Awards ceremony was held in 2019. The virus forced Broadway theaters to abruptly close on March 12, 2020, knocking out all shows and scrambling the spring season. Several have restarted, including the so-called big three of “Wicked,” “Hamilton” and “The Lion King.”

AP National Writer Jocelyn Noveck contributed to this report.

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Man who filmed Rodney King video dies of COVID in Los Angeles

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Man who filmed Rodney King video dies of COVID in Los Angeles

In this March 28, 1991, file photo, George Holliday, the man who videotaped the beating of Black motorist Rodney King by four Los Angeles Police Department officers, holds his camera after a news conference, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Craig Fujii, File)

(AP) – George Holliday, the Los Angeles plumber who shot grainy video of four white police officers beating Black motorist Rodney King in 1991, has died of complications of COVID-19, a friend said Monday.

Holliday, 61, died Sunday at a Los Angeles hospital, where he had been for more than a month, according to Robert Wollenweber, a longtime friend and former coworker. Holliday was not vaccinated and was on a ventilator in recent days after contracting pneumonia, Wollenweber said.

Holliday was awakened by a traffic stop outside his San Fernando Valley home on the night of March 3, 1991. He went outside to film it with his new video camera, catching the Los Angeles officers punching, kicking, and using a stun gun on King, even after he was on the ground.

A year later, Holliday’s out-of-focus footage — about 9 minutes worth — was a key piece of evidence at the four officers’ criminal trial for assault and excessive use of force.

When a jury acquitted all the officers on April 29, 1992, the city erupted in widespread violence. Hundreds of businesses were looted and destroyed over several days. Entire blocks of homes and stores went up in flames. More than 60 people died by shootings or other violence, mostly in South Los Angeles.

The uprising seemed to catch the rest of the nation by surprise, but longtime residents said tensions were building in South LA for years and the King verdict was just the tipping point.

On the third day of the riots, King went on TV to plead for calm, asking in a trembling voice, “Can we all get along?”

King sued Los Angeles over the beating and was awarded $3.8 million in 1994, but he told The Associated Press in 2012 that he lost most of that money to bad investments. King drowned in his backyard swimming pool on June 17, 2012, at age 47.

Holliday’s death was first reported by TMZ.com.

Holliday put the Sony camcorder he used to record the beating up for auction last July, with bidding starting at $225,000. It was unclear if it ever sold.

Holliday told the New York Times last year that he was still working as a plumber and never profited from the video.

He said he had purchased the camera about a month earlier and he grabbed it instinctively when he was awakened by a noise outside his window.

“You know how it is when you have a new piece of technology,” he told the Times. “You film anything and everything.”

Holliday said in 2017 that he was working on a documentary about his role in the King case, but it was unclear if anything became of that project.

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COVID creates dire shortage of teachers and school staff

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COVID creates dire shortage of teachers and school staff

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — One desperate California school district is sending flyers home in students’ lunchboxes, telling parents it’s “now hiring.” Elsewhere, principals are filling in as crossing guards, teachers are being offered to sign bonuses and schools are moving back to online learning.

Now that schools have welcomed students back to classrooms, they face a new challenge: a shortage of teachers and staff the likes of which some districts say they have never seen.

Public schools have struggled for years with teacher shortages, particularly in math, science, special education, and languages. But the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the problem. The stress of teaching in the COVID-19 era has triggered a spike in retirements and resignations. Schools also need to hire staffers like tutors and special aides to make up for learning losses and more teachers to run online schools for those not ready to return.

Teacher shortages and difficulties filling openings have been reported in Tennessee, New Jersey, and South Dakota, where one district started the school year with 120 teacher vacancies. Across Texas, the main districts in Houston, Waco, and elsewhere reported hundreds of teaching vacancies at the start of the year.

Several schools nationwide have had to shut classrooms because of a lack of teachers.

In Michigan, Eastpointe Community Schools abruptly moved its middle school back to remote learning this week because it doesn’t have enough teachers. The small district north of Detroit has 43 positions vacant — a quarter of its teaching staff. When several middle school teachers resigned without notice last week, the district shifted to online classes to avoid sending in unqualified substitutes, spokeswoman Caitlyn Kienitz said.

“You don’t want just an adult who can pass a background check, you want a teacher in front of your kids,” Kienitz said. “This is obviously not ideal, but we’re able to make sure they’re getting each subject area from a teacher certified to teach it.”

According to a June survey of 2,690 members of the National Education Association, 32% said the pandemic drove them to plan to leave the profession earlier than expected. Another survey by the RAND Corp. said the pandemic exacerbated attrition, burnout, and stress on teachers, who were almost twice as likely as other employed adults to feel frequent job-related stress and almost three times more likely to experience depression.

The lack of teachers is “really a nationwide issue and definitely a statewide issue,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, president of California’s State Board of Education.

A school district in California’s West Contra Costa County is considering hiring out-of-state math educators to teach online while a substitute monitors students in person.

“This is the most acute shortage of labor we have ever had,” associate superintendent Tony Wold said. “We opened this year with 50 — that’s five-zero — teaching positions open. That means students are going to 50 classrooms that do not have a permanent teacher.”

There are an additional 100 openings for non-credentialed but critical staff like instructional aides — who help English learners and special needs students — custodians, cafeteria workers, and others, Wold said.

California’s largest district, Los Angeles Unified with 600,000 students, has more than 500 teacher vacancies, a fivefold increase from previous years, spokeswoman Shannon Haber said.

Schools try to fill in with substitutes, but they’re in short supply, too. Only about a quarter of the pool of 1,000 qualified substitutes is willing to work in Fresno Unified, said Nikki Henry, a spokeswoman for the central California district with 70,000 students and 12,000 staffers.

At Berkeley High School, a shortage of substitutes means teachers are asked to fill in during their prep periods, leading to exhaustion and burnout typically not felt at the start of a school year.

“We are absolutely strained. This has been an incredibly stressful start to the year,” said Hasmig Minassian, a ninth-grade teacher who describes physical and mental exhaustion as she tries to juggle staffing needs and the emotional needs of students who are showing signs of more mental fragility and learning loss.

“It doesn’t feel like there are enough adults on these campuses to keep kids really safe. We feel short-staffed in a way we’ve never felt before,” she said. “You know the early videos of nurses crying in their cars? I kind of expect those to come out about teachers.”

The California shortages range from dire to less severe in places that planned ahead and beat the competition, but those are the minority, said Darling-Hammond of the board of education.

In a new twist, money is not the main problem. School districts have the funds to hire additional staff, thanks to billions in federal and state pandemic relief funding. There just aren’t people applying.

“We’re all competing for a shrinking piece of the pie,” said Mike Ghelber, assistant superintendent at the Morongo Unified School District in the Mojave Desert, which has more than 200 openings for special education aides, custodians, cafeteria workers, and others. “I don’t know if everybody is getting snatched up, or if they don’t want to teach in the COVID era, but it’s like the well has dried up.”

The district of 8,000 students has ads in newspapers, radio, and social media. Teachers are packing “now hiring” flyers into kids’ lunchboxes, with a long list of openings so families can spread the word. In the meantime, everyone is pitching in.

“Principals and administrators are out being crossing guards. Secretaries are directing traffic because we’re short on supervisors,” Ghelber said.

The shortages raise concerns that schools will hire underqualified teachers, particularly in low-income communities where it’s already harder to fill positions, Darling-Hammond said.

Class sizes also are expanding.

Mount Diablo Unified School District, which serves 28,000 students east of San Francisco, has had to fill several elementary school classrooms at the maximum capacity of 32 students. It’s not ideal for social distancing but frees up teachers for an online school.

About 150 kids initially signed up for distance learning, but with spiking infections blamed on the highly contagious delta variant, the number ballooned to 600 when school reopened. The same happened in Fresno, where enrollment in remote learning exploded to 3,800 from 450.

Superintendent Adam Clark said the Mount Diablo district is offering $5,000 signing bonuses for speech pathologists and $1,500 for paraeducators who help students with learning needs.

San Francisco Unified is offering a similar starting bonus for 100 paraeducator jobs. Nearby West Contra Costa County Unified has set $6,000 signing bonuses for teachers, with a third paid out after the first month and the rest when the teacher enters year three.

Districts in Oklahoma, North Carolina, New Jersey, and elsewhere are offering a range of cash incentives for new teachers, particularly in low-income and low-performing schools.

Of a dozen officials interviewed in California districts, only one said it was facing no shortages.

Long Beach Unified, the state’s fourth-largest district with over 70,000 students, anticipated the need last spring for a hiring spree of about 400 jobs.

“We went full aggressive,” assistant superintendent David Zaid said, including beefing up human resources for a 24-hour turnaround on contract offers.

A virtual interview team worked through the summer. Recruitment events drew hundreds of applicants, and as HR employees met hiring benchmarks, they got rewards like catered breakfasts and an ice cream truck.

“We probably would have experienced the same shortages as others,” Zaid said. “But we became much more assertive, and as a result, we are not in the same position.”

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