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Wichita Public Schools to parents: Be prepared for temporary closures

No schools in Wichita have closed, but a district spokesperson says data from each school is being monitored.
Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 8:41 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - As of Thursday, no Wichita schools have closed due to lack of staffing caused by COVID, but a Wichita Public Schools spokesperson says the district is monitoring data at each of its schools.

Staff and student absences are the key pieces of information that would be considered for a “short time” school closure.

Brent Lewis leads United Teachers of Wichita, a union that represents more than 4,000 staff. On Tuesday, Lewis was a substitute teacher at Curtis Middle School.

“Our teachers are helping one another out as people are absent from illness or quarantine, which means colleagues are stepping in to combine classes, to cover classes, when it would’ve been their planning or preparation time,” said Lewis.

For more than 15 years, Lewis has been teaching in Wichita. He says he’s never seen a situation like now - where nearly 400 staff are in quarantine.

“We have numerous students who are absent (over) illness or quarantine, of course. Numerous staff members are out at this time. So, you see a lot of us trying to maintain normalcy as best we can,” said Lewis.

He’s also a father who sympathizes with parents who may be struggling to plan for childcare in case a school is closed for several days.

“We recognize how important it is for our community that our schools be open, and we are educating our youth. Unfortunately, we may be put in that position where we do not have the staff available,” said Lewis.

The Wichita School District said if that happens, parents should be prepared. Here’s what you can do: start by talking with your employer about this potential scenario. Find out if remote work is possible, or if a flexible schedule can be worked out. Then, reach out to family, friends or neighbors, that you trust, to see you they don’t mind watching your child while you work. Lastly, check to see if daycares are available that can take your child.

“The challenge, of course, is finding childcare options so people can remain on the job. Unfortunately, daycares are facing the same challenges we are. It’s going to come down to networks of family and friends,” said Lewis.

If a school is closed, it’s not known yet if students would go to remote learning.

Also, the district says, like every year with snow days, if there’s a need, the year could be extended. But that would be decided based on what happens this spring.

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