Uncertainty looms over DPS staffing crisis

Local News

DENVER (KDVR) – Colorado’s largest school district is in the middle of a staffing crisis. A critical shortage of teachers and staff has forced closures that include a districtwide impact next week.

There have already been three Denver Public Schools operational closures due to staffing issues—forcing remote learning, according to the district. On Wednesday, the district said Thanksgiving break will be extended as administrators try to manage the situation. Students, faculty and staff will now start Thanksgiving break on Friday, Nov. 19.

“I get that we’re staying at home for being sick, but to actually have a shortage of teachers– now that’s … another scary subject,” said DPS parent Ashley Fox.

Other parents expressed concern over the lack of quality education.

“It’s just hard to learn through a screen,” said DPS guardian Jackey Lopez.

DPS, like other districts nationwide, is struggling with day-to-day teacher absences and a lack of substitute teachers. Many substitute teachers are retirees who are trying to avoid classroom COVID spread, a teacher union official said Tuesday.

“We’re absolutely asking for everyone to please consider joining us,” said DPS superintendent Alex Marrero in a plea for more substitute teachers.

The district said there are currently 4,705 teachers in its schools. The district’s goal is to have 1,200 substitute teachers. Currently, there are 377 DPS substitute teachers. On Friday, Nov.12, DPS is projecting 489 teacher absences.

“The last year and a half has been a stressful year for teachers,” Governor Polis told FOX31 on Wednesday. “It’s been a stressful time for families [and] for parents.”

Marrero said sick time, self-care and personal days– combined with quarantines and general COVID fatigue– resulted in districts being unable to open buildings safely.

“Our staff is prepared on any given day to shift to remote,” Marrero said. “I just want to highlight that this is not something that we are planning to do regularly. We’ll have to if we need to.”

It’s that uncertainty that has parents nervous.

“That’s kind of alarming in so many ways,” Fox said. “We need to figure that out.”

DPS said the district closure on Nov. 19 will provide a much needed break for students and teachers. Also, the district is encouraging parents to use that day as an opportunity to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19.

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