Family Update | Jan. 24
For resources regarding free meals Wednesday, Jan. 26 through Friday, Jan. 28, visit LISD.net/freemeals.
As I mentioned in my update to you this weekend, our staffing shortages have reached significant levels due to the latest COVID surge. We do not have enough staff members to cover the expected staff absences, despite our best efforts to find substitutes and coverage for classes. The numbers simply are not in our favor.
After reviewing our most recent trends and data over the last two days, we have made the difficult decision to close the district beginning Wednesday, Jan. 26. Classes will resume Monday, Jan. 31. It is our hope this district-wide closure will stem this alarming trend and provide relief to both students and staff.
The positive cases reported by middle school and high school students over the last 10 days have increased by almost 500%. Absences for on-campus staff are running between 7-800 daily, while district-wide staff absences have been over 900 and peaked at 1,048 last Friday. That is more than double the number we would expect during non-COVID years. It is important to understand, not all these absences are positive COVID cases in staff. Many may be COVID-related, but we are seeing extraordinarily high numbers with other illnesses, personal reasons, sick family members, family medical leave, and the list goes on. Regardless of the cause, these staff absences impact our ability to maintain our daily campus operations.
We know you may wonder why we can’t offer virtual or remote learning for a period of time, and that is a reasonable question. The answer still comes back to the lack of staff availability to conduct those lessons. We are conscious of the lost instructional time, and are considering all options to address those concerns.
Student activities such as fine arts and athletics will continue at the high school level. Middle school athletics for this week will be canceled and rescheduled for a future date, while some optional fine arts practice sessions may be held virtually. Campus-specific information will be shared by campus administrators and program sponsors regarding practices or other important information.
We understand the impact this has on our more than 50,000 students and their families and our 6,500 staff, and we do not make this decision lightly. We have heard from concerned families on all sides of this issue. Some believe we should have closed the district earlier. Some believe we shouldn’t close schools at all. We know this is not a perfect solution, and certainly a measure we wish we didn’t have to take. I want to be clear - we have used every resource available over the last two weeks to keep the district open.
I want to thank our teachers, campus support staff, campus administrators, along with the district’s central office staff, for covering classes in addition to their already full workloads. I want to thank our extended day staff members for coming in early to cover classes. And I want to thank all the substitute teachers for sticking with us, and our HR department for trying to recruit more substitutes to our system. We are doing everything we can to keep schools open, and we have simply reached the limit of tools at our disposal.
We will continue to communicate with you as early as possible regarding the decisions we are considering and making. My sincere appreciation for your patience and support for our staff and students. I know the majority of our community understand and appreciate what hard-working and dedicated teachers, principals and staff we have. I ask that you treat these folks with kindness and give the benefit of the doubt that we are doing all we can to serve and support our students and families.
My best wishes for the safety of your family.