KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Olathe Public Schools is expecting to have over 600 staff members absent Friday, which would be the highest number of absences on record with about 15% of certified staff absent.
During the Olathe Public Schools Board of Education meeting Thursday, Superintendent Dr. Brent Yeager reported that the district was averaging over 500 staff absences per day.
Yeager also said that, on a daily basis, the district has requested over 300 substitute teachers, and they are filling those requests at around 80-85%. He said the district is doing a "pretty good job" at finding substitutes for classes, but not being able to fill all of the absences is placing a burden on the staff.
"I say we are doing a pretty good job, that's unless one of those 15% is the classroom next to you or your classroom because that has an extreme burden on our staff in terms of dividing kids, teachers filling in for teachers," Yeager said. "That's one of the reasons why our teachers are low on fuel, they've all really stepped in and are helping each other."
Yeager said that staffing is becoming an "exponential challenge" every day.
As of Thursday night, the district had received over 400 requests for substitutes for Friday.
“If it wasn’t for our learning services staff, we would be closing schools in the Olathe Public School District tomorrow,” Yeager said Thursday night.
The superintendent recognized that staff across the district were burned out and thanked them for continuing to work each day.
"I want to thank our staff members who are out of gas, who continue to come to work each and every day. It’s because of them that our doors remain open," Yeager said.
Although the district has not had to close, Yeager told parents to start thinking about plans for closures.
"For parents that are tuning in, it may be worthy to start thinking about a Plan B in case we have to cancel school one day,” Yeager said.
When asked by a board member about when the district won't have enough staff to continue school, Yeager said if 65 more staff members are absent, they may have to cancel school.
“We are dangerously close to that point where we will have to cancel schools,” Yeager said.
KSHB 41 reached out to Olathe Public Schools Friday, and a spokesperson for the district said that while they have been able to cover staff absences, a temporary closure is still possible.
"While we have been able to continue covering staff absences through substitutes and internal coverage, we want to make sure our community is aware that a temporary district closure due to the impact of COVID on school staffing is a possibility," the spokesperson said. "Parents are asked to have a childcare plan in place now in the event that staffing levels would require the district to temporarily close down."
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