No school Friday for Seattle, Bellevue. Teachers say they are exhausted
There will be no school for students on Friday, Nov. 12, Seattle Public Schools announced just days before, on Tuesday.
A district-wide email sent out to Seattle parents today says an “unusually large number” of school staff are taking Friday — the day after Veterans Day — off, and that the district lacks “adequate personnel to open schools with the necessary environment for high-quality learning.”
“This is a change from the published schedule, and we recognize the late notice creates challenging circumstances for many families,” the email continues.
A statement from Seattle Public Schools further elaborated on the district closure.
“The number of leave requests on a Friday after a federal holiday is indicative of the fatigue our staff and students are experiencing in these months of the return to classroom,” a statement from Seattle Public Schools said. “The four-day weekend may offer physical, mental, and emotional restoration.”
On Friday, childcare, custodial work and other functions will continue in schools, including meal distribution at certain sites, the district said.
Last week on Thursday, Seattle Public Schools’ human resources department wrote to teachers that they had received 600 requests for personal leave from school staff, for the day after Veterans Day. Students and teachers already have the holiday off.
“Please remember that personal days are for very limited purposes and are not to be used as an additional holiday or vacation day,” the email reads. “We encourage you to please prioritize being in your school on November 12. Our current major shortage of staff creates gaps in service and instruction, particularly for those students who are most vulnerable and furthest away from educational justice.”
Seattle Public Schools said additional requests asking for Friday off came in this week, and that based on historical patterns, they anticipated more staff would take leave that day.
The Bellevue School District is also closed Friday.
"Some of the creative solutions we have provided in the past with staff shortages, will not work with the COVID-19 restrictions. For example, combining classes is not an option at this time," the Bellevue School District wrote on their website about the closure.
Benjamin King, a spokesperson with the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, wrote in an email that they were aware of two school districts taking Friday off due to staffing shortages, Bellevue and Seattle. And while they do collect data annually on staffing for school districts, they did not yet have data for the 2021-22 school year.
“Our schools are working hard to provide a continuity of learning for their students, despite the many challenges they face due to the pandemic,” a statement from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction said. “... If a district cannot safely operate on any given day, due to weather, a loss of power, a staffing shortage, or any other reason, they are empowered at the local level to make that safety decision.”
A school day for Seattle will be added to the end of the school year, the district wrote, to ensure students receive enough instruction time. At Bellevue School District, Friday, Jan. 28 will be the makeup day.