WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Classes are in session at Waterbury Public Schools for the first time this week, but the middle and high schools are not open for a full day due to staffing shortages and transportation concerns amid COVID-19.

Waterbury middle and high schools are only in session for four hours each day. High schools are staggered. The three middle schools are in session from 7:50 a.m. to 11:50 a.m.

“What that does is allow the bus runs to actually pick up students on time, get them to school on time, and get them home,” Waterbury Interim Deputy Superintendent Darren Schwartz said.

The district went from hundreds of late buses a day to just a couple of dozen. It also means focusing on just core classes during school hours.

“So what that does is free up our elective teachers in the morning to be able to support all those classrooms that don’t have a certified teacher in them to be able to actually see a familiar face,” Schwartz said.

When the kids leave school, they log on and do their elective classes from home. That means physical education teachers have to teach their classes remotely.

“We’re covering classes for the core classes, and then when the kids go home for the half-day, we teach online, so it’s a different animal,” physical education teacher Rob Plasky said.

The schedule is not great for some working parents.

“I have two kids. I have one in high school, one in middle school, and having to make so many trips in one day throughout the week is a struggle,” Monica Bassett said. “It’s not easy.”

But it does get students in the classroom. Waterbury had been seeing a quarter of all students staying home.

“The day after we started this, we started to see a trend of 1,500 more students attending school on a daily basis,” Schwartz said. “So, we’ve cut this down from about 4,500 absences to about 3,000 absences on a daily basis.”

Not knowing how much longer staffing shortages will continue and not knowing how much longer the schedule makes it very tough to plan for students, parents and teachers.