‘It’s affected us very deeply’: Parents left to deal with Spokane Schools’ calendar change

SPOKANE, Wash. – Spokane Public Schools announced it is changing its calendar. Students will not be going to school several days this month in an effort to let staff catch up on quarantine, work and contact tracing.

The district’s staffing crisis has hit a critical point, now needing to make changes to accommodate the shortage.

Out of 5,000 staff members, Superintendent Adam Swinyard said more than 400 certificated staff members were absent from work on Thursday.

“The vast majority of our staff absences are related to quarantining, at this point in time,” said Swinyard.

Students already had Monday, January 17 off. Now, students will be off that Tuesday, too. In addition to that, the district is considering Monday, January 24 as a no-student day, too. The district says it’s highly probable that will happen, but they will let families know by Thursday, January 20.

Students are also scheduled to be off on Monday, January 31. That was already a pre-planned off day, Swinyard said. These days are built-in snow days that were scheduled for March.

“We’re strategically connecting these days to weekends to provide those spaces of time to allow the quarantining return to catch up and also maintaining continuity to services to kids, as compared to taking a full week off,” Swinyard said. “We’re trying to recognize the various needs and strains on our school district.”

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Swinyard recognizes that there’s not enough advanced notice for families in school schedule changes, however, he said they just want to try and avoid abrupt cancelations.

Spokane mom Kayla Reid says the last 10 days have been difficult for her family. Her two daughters felt sick on Sunday and then had to go find COVID testing. They didn’t find one until Thursday. So, her kids have to be out of school for days.

Now that the district said her kids will be off a few more days, it’s become a lot for her.

“It’s affected us very deeply,” she said. “With my kids being home again, it has impacted our mental health, it impacts our finances, it impacts their education, especially.”

Reid says she’s concerned about her two daughters’ education, having so many substitutes. As much as she tries to help her daughters at home, it’s hard to keep up.

“I know she’s behind, but there’s nothing I can do about it because it continues to just go on and on and on,” she said.

In an effort to keep school in-person, Swinyard says they’re doing whatever they can to have staff in schools.

If too many teachers or other staff members call out, other teachers will have to fill in on their prep periods or breaks to supervise kids. The district said it’s also had 50 central office administrators and other members of support team go to schools to fill in.

Swinyard knows that a student’s classroom teacher will give them the best learning experience, but during this hard time, they have to be creative and still make it work.

“Is it the teacher they’re used to? No. But, is it someone who loves kids and understands education? Absolutely,” he said.

All schools can do right now is figure it out as they go, hoping things don’t get worse. Health officials have predicted the next few weeks may be the worst, but say the Omicron variant’s peak is coming.

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