January 21, 2022 - 6:03 pm
Updated January 24, 2022 - 6:48 am
The school district canceled two days of classes, combined with a long holiday weekend, starting Jan. 14 because of “extreme staffing shortages.” Students will make up those school days this year.
The district, which has more than 300,000 students and 40,000 employees, released its latest batch of attendance numbers on Friday evening. It didn’t offer further comment.
On Wednesday, the district logged 1,323 employee absences — below the average of 1,396 for this school year.
It’s a significant drop compared with the 1,826 to 2,147 workers who were out daily from Jan. 6-11.
Absences are from a variety of reasons, including sick and vacation time, so it’s unknown how many employees were out specifically because of COVID-19 cases or quarantines.
On Thursday, 1,335 employees were absent. By Friday, the number of workers calling out climbed to 1,571.
Student attendance rates improved slightly after the pause, ranging from 84.2 percent to nearly 86 percent from Wednesday through Friday. It’s still below the approximately 90 percent average for this school year.
Before the pause, the rate was nearly 84 percent on Jan. 11. The following day, it dropped to 81.6 percent.
Since classes resumed this week, the situation also improved with how many day-to-day employee vacancies were covered by substitute teachers. And fewer of the district’s central office staff were deployed to help at schools.
From Wednesday through Friday, the substitute fill rate ranged from 25.4 percent to 30.1 percent each day. That’s an improvement over the 19.3 percent to 22.2 percent rate from Jan. 6-11.
Approximately eight to 17 central office staff members helped at schools daily over the past three days. The district was previously deploying about 36-44 workers daily.
COVID-19 case numbers surged following winter break after classes resumed Jan. 5 amid the spread of the more contagious omicron variant.
As of Friday, the district has reported 15,097 COVID-19 cases since July 1. Of those, 6,689 were tallied this month.
The situation exacerbated a staffing shortage that has worsened since the school year began in early August.
The district said Tuesday that its nurses used the five-day pause to catch up on a backlog of requests through its COVID-19 hotlines — one for employees and one for parents — used to report positive cases, exposures or possible symptoms.
Nurses contacted 1,409 employees and cleared 1,068 to return to work. They also contacted 4,057 parents and cleared 2,324 students to return.
Hotlines have experienced high call volumes for a couple of weeks, resulting in long wait times and some callers not being able to get through. As a result, the district created online forms to allow people to submit information and request a return call.
Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.