School districts canceling Friday classes due to staff shortages

SEATTLE — In separate letters to families, Seattle Public Schools and the Bellevue School District said they will be closed on Friday, Nov. 12, due to an unusually large number of staff taking leave on Friday.

Late Wednesday morning, the Kent School District also notified parents that schools would be closed on Friday due to staff and substitute teacher shortages. Sports, activities, and school facility use will operate as scheduled on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Kent Schools will be closed as planned on Thursday for Veterans Day.

Kent School District officials said the day will be made up on Friday, Mar. 25, 2022.

The Seattle day will be added to the end of the 2021-2022 school year and the Bellevue makeup will be Jan. 28.

Classes remain canceled on Thursday for Veterans Day.

The entire statement from Seattle Public Schools read:

Friday, Nov. 12 will be a non-instructional day in Seattle Public Schools. This is a change from the school calendar, and we recognize that the late notice creates challenging circumstances for many families.

We are aware of an unusually large number of SPS staff taking leave on Friday, Nov. 12, and do not have adequate personnel to open schools with the necessary environment for student safety and high-quality learning.

The number of leave requests on a Friday after a federal holiday is indicative of the fatigue our staff and students are experiencing in these months of the return to classroom. The four-day weekend may offer physical, mental, and emotional restoration.

This learning day will be repositioned in the 2021-22 school year to ensure all students have access to the full number of educational days and hours.

Childcare, custodial work and other functions will continue in schools on Friday. Meal distribution sites will be deployed at a subset of school buildings.

As of last week, more than 600 educators had requested a substitute and additional requests came in this week. Based on historical patterns, it is likely many additional staff would take leave and not come in on Friday morning. With the current labor shortage of substitutes, and our current staffing levels, SPS does not have the capacity to ensure student safety and high-quality learning.

The statement from Bellevue Schools read:

Please be advised all Bellevue Schools will be closed on Friday, November 12, in addition to Thursday, November 11 because of staffing shortages, anticipated inclement weather and COVID-19 restrictions. BSD athletics programming will run as currently scheduled. Regularly scheduled afterschool activities will be canceled. However, check with your student’s advisor if you have questions. Classes will resume again, and school will reopen Monday, November 15.

We recognize that this notice may result in the need for childcare for families. Right at School, our partner in providing childcare, is on hand to assist those who wish to get quick access to their services. Specific information regarding Right at School will be provided on our website.

Some of the creative solutions we have provided in the past with staff shortages, will not work with the COVID-19 restrictions. For example, combining classes is not an option at this time.

Friday, January 28 will be the makeup day.

In observance of Veterans Day and to honor all who have served our country, All district offices will be closed Thursday, November 11.

The following statement was posted on the Kent School District’s website:

Due to staff and substitute shortages, we are changing the 2021-2022 calendar. Thursday, November 11, 2021, our district is closed in observance of Veterans Day. Friday, November 12, 2021, our schools will be closed, the central office will be open. Athletics, activities, and school facility use will operate as scheduled on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. This day will be made up on Friday, March 25, 2022.

Like districts across the country, we continue to see sustained staff shortages in multiple teams across our district, including teachers, bus drivers, nutrition services, paraeducators, and office support staff.

“I recognize the hard work and dedication of our staff in supporting our students and families amidst extraordinary challenges. Unfortunately, this pandemic has impacted us all in so many ways,” said Interim Superintendent Israel Vela. “I know that each of us in Team KSD is working through trauma caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, our staff, at every level, has experienced an unprecedented amount of stress, impacting their mental health. Unfortunately, we cannot safely operate schools with the staff and substitute shortages we are already seeing in our data.”

Our teachers, support staff, and administrators at every level and in our central office have gone above and beyond each day to serve our students and families, often sacrificing the time they need to take care of themselves. The levels of stress in our staff are incredibly concerning, we believe this has in part led to the high volume of planned leave for Friday, November 12.

We recognize decisions about school schedules impact families and may add additional strain. We also know this decision may extend our school year. However, student and staff safety is our priority, and we cannot safely operate schools due to staff and sub shortages in our schools. Our Human Resources team is updating the school calendar; revised calendars will be posted to our website as soon as they are available.