Public schools in Colorado take a day off to deal with staff shortages

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DENVER (KDVR) — Families in three school districts along the Front Range only have one more day left in the school week.

School will not be in session in Boulder Valley Schools, Adams 12 Five Star Schools or Adams County School District 14 schools due to staffing shortages, and three Denver Public Schools will move to full-remote instruction on Thursday and Friday for the same reason.

With districts calling teaching days, we wondered about the state of substitutes in Colorado. We spoke to a union representative and district leadership to find out if that had anything to do with it.

“We have more shortages in certified educators this year than any other year I’ve ever been in this district. I’ve been in this district for over 30 years now between being a student and now a parent and educator,” said District 12 Educators Association President Dave Lockley, the union representing schools in Adams 12.

It’s what Adams 14 schools say are to blame for the cancellation of classes this Friday. The district is giving students and teachers a snow day instead of a day for instruction.

Adams 12 students will have the day off too. The union president says a lack of substitutes played a role.

“We had really low fill rates with our subs,” Lockley said. “We didn’t have a lot to start with, and it’s a Friday and the Friday after a holiday. Definitely a hard ask. We could have operated schools safely, but would it had been a productive day of school? Probably not.”

The problem is widespread. Alhough subs in Colorado make up to $200 a day, Lockley said stability is at the root of the problem.

“Our classified staff only get paid for the time that students are in schools, which means that even at any given day they can make pretty good money. But that doesn’t translate into an entire year’s worth of pay. You can’t support a family very easily off what we pay our support staff here in Colorado,” Lockley said.

The lack of substitutes was not the only reason for the off day. District leaders say the mix of finding substitutes for so many teachers calling out, plus the Veteran’s Day holiday being on a Thursday, created a unique situation to allow them to just give everyone an extra day off.

“We came to the conclusion that it made the most sense for continuity of student learning to just extend out the holiday, and we have the allocated days to do it from the state so that everyone returned fresh on Monday and there is no disruption to student learning there,” said Dr. Robert Lundin, Adams 14’s executive communications director.

It also helps that students have not had to deal with snow yet this year.

Districts do not believe they will have to take another day off this year seeing that other holidays are already planned around breaks for students.

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