OLATHE, KS (KCTV) -- The Olathe School District is experience mass sickness among its staffers and is about 65 absences away from needing to cancel classes, the district's superintendent said at Thursday night's Board meeting.
The district has been averaging over 500 staff absences every day. On Friday morning, that number jumped to over 600, an all-time high. If these numbers keep climbing, it won't be long before administrators are forced to cancel school, said Supt. Brent Yeager.
"This is uncharted territory...We're close. Just to be really honest with you, we're close," Yeager told Board members. "You may have seen De Soto, some other districts around us, are closing...I hope that doesn't happen, but...it may be worthy to start thinking about a Plan B just in case we would end up canceling school."
The school district has had to lean heavily on its Learning Services staff to fill in for teachers out sick, as the pool of substitute teachers is also growing thin. Olathe pulls from the same pool of substitute teachers as other districts nearby. Since all of those districts are experiencing mass absences---and since substitutes themselves also become sick---it's a significant challenge for administrators to navigate each day, the superintendent said.
"It it wasn't for our learning services staff, we would be closing school in the Olathe Public School District tomorrow," Yeager said, also praising the staffers who continue to come into school every day, picking up extra work.
At this time last year, the district had three unfilled substitute positions. That number as of Thursday night was 72.
Board member Brad Boyd asked the superintendent at what point the district reaches a level that necessitates the closing of school. Yeager responded:
"I wish I could answer that question easily…This is uncharted territory…We’re close. Just to be really honest with you, we’re close. When you think about, just over 400 staff members asking for a substitute, that’s literally 400 out of our 700 potential subs that have to go in, pick up a job, take a job, feel comfortable with it, and then, 4 o’clock tomorrow morning for jobs that aren’t filled, our substitute services department then starts moving people all around the district to try to not have an undue burden on a specific school. The reality is, we’re very close to that not being manageable."