Enrichment Education

Two large Kansas school districts shut down amid COVID-19 surge, staff shortage

Mirjana Ristic/ iStock

Story at a glance

  • Multiple school districts in the state of Kansas are closed this week because of severe staffing shortages caused by the current wave of COVID-19 cases.
  • Kansas’s Olathe Public Schools announced it would be closed until Thursday, as the district said about 20 percent of its staff called out sick.
  • Some schools are asking parents to step up and become substitute teachers in order to address the national teacher shortage.

Multiple school districts in the state of Kansas announced they would be temporarily closing as they suffered from extreme staffing shortages because of COVID-19 infections. The move comes as schools across the country grapple with similar staffing problems. 

Olathe Public Schools announced over the weekend that it would be closing its buildings until Thursday, as the district reported about 20 percent of its staff called out sick. Kansas Public Schools, the fifth largest district in the state, made a similar announcement, releasing a statement that it would be closing its doors to students through Jan. 19. 

Both schools cited a high number of staff absences caused by COVID-19 infections. 

Brent Yeager, superintendent of Olathe Public Schools, said his district had more than 800 staff out sick and more than 1,500 students test positive for COVID-19 last week.  

Yeager noted that the state of Kansas allows schools to conduct up to 40 hours of remote learning, but the volume of staff illnesses is so high the district was unable to offer remote learning. 


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The Unified School District No. 232 of Kansas also announced it had canceled classes last Friday in response to a high number of staff absences due to COVID-19. It also cited nearly 20 percent of its classroom teachers were not available, with 100 teaching positions unfilled last week.  

Between 10 to 11 percent of USD 232 students were also absent last week due to illness, with the school not specifying the cause of illness. 

Some schools are so desperate for coverage they are turning to parents to help fill in as substitute teachers. The Austin Jewish Academy in Texas is exclusively relying on parents to fill in as teachers call out sick during the latest surge of COVID-19 infections, according to The Washington Post. 

Kansas schools are not alone in facing closures due to the current rise in COVID-19 cases, with thousands of Los Angeles public school students testing positive for COVID-19 ahead of their first day back at school last week. Burbio, a tech company tracking school closures across the U.S., found that more than 6,000 schools were disrupted the week of Jan. 10, all of which are not offering in-person learning.  

The National Education Association says the current omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has simply exacerbated existing teacher shortages across the country and have “turned each school system into a precarious house of cards.” 

The White House is attempting to help schools by providing 10 million tests every month to help them stay open and offering full reimbursement for schools that provide COVID-19 testing to their communities. 


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