To Our David Douglas District Families,
As you all know, cases of COVID-19 continue to spike in large part because of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. Infections of our staff and students are accelerating quickly. We expect this acceleration to continue as this month goes on. We are at the point where very soon some or all of our schools will no longer be able to operate safely due to severe understaffing.
If a school, or the entire District, goes back into Comprehensive Distance Learning (CDL), we have committed to providing two days of transition time so that staff and students are able to properly prepare for a return to CDL. Unfortunately, the way our COVID numbers are going, we expect that may be necessary in the very near future.
In an effort to be proactive and fully prepared in the event we must switch to CDL, the District will close all schools to students this Thursday and Friday, Jan. 13 and 14.
This will allow our schools and staff to prepare to switch to CDL at a moment’s notice. You and your student(s) should also use this time to prepare for a possible return to CDL. Create a quiet learning space in your home; get reacquainted with any needed technology and software; bring anything home from school that may be needed.
Even this brief closure is a step that we do not want to take. Our students need to be in our classrooms with their teachers and instructional assistants. But too many of our teachers and instructional assistants are out, either with infection or in quarantine. And many more of our instructional assistants are subbing for teachers, as are many of our office staff and administrators, leaving front offices understaffed.
Each week, we track the numbers of staff in quarantine either because they tested positive, or had a close exposure. For much of this year, that number for each week has typically hovered around 3-5 total staff. Two weeks ago, it jumped to 18. Last week it was 81. We expect that for the current week, it will be significantly higher still. And these are only COVID absences. It does not count the normal absences we experience in a regular week. Far fewer than half of these absences are able to be covered by substitutes. If these numbers continue to climb at the current rate, our ability to safely operate will be compromised. We already have a handful of schools nearing the threshold of having to temporarily end in-person learning.
We are also critically short of custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and cooks, health assistants and other vital support staff. Further loss of these support personnel eventually could lead to the entire District reverting to CDL.
While schools are closed this Thursday and Friday, and during the coming three-day weekend, we will be carefully tracking our staffing numbers. Based on those numbers, we will provide you with timely updates about next Tuesday, Jan. 18, and the rest of next week. We hope to have all students back in school next week, but frankly, it is the Omicron variant of COVID-19 that will drive that decision.
Thank you for everything you are doing to slow the spread of the virus, keeping your family safe, and for helping to prepare your student(s) for the possibility of a temporary return to Comprehensive Distance Learning. We hope it won’t be necessary, but we feel an obligation to our staff, families, and students to be prepared for it.