Adams 14 finds no substitute for substitutes

Shortage of temporary teachers behind additional Friday off


The Adams 14 school district's last-minute decision to take the day after Veterans Day off has less to do with permanent staffing shortages and more to do with understanding the nature of Thursday holidays and giving staff and students a break, according to officials.

“We are not feeling the pinch, that either classes or schools are going uncovered,” said Robert Lundin, executive director of Communications and Special projects for Adams County School District 14.

The Commerce City-based district announced on Nov. 8 that it would extend the normal Veterans Day holiday by a day this year to include Thursday and Friday, giving staff and students a four-day weekend.

The decision is based on the difficulty of finding substitutes for the teachers that might end up taking the day off.

Lundin said the district usually sees attendance drop off on the day after Veterans Day, with more parents choosing to keep their kids home for the day. The district expected teachers to do the same this year, he said.

“The question is going to be how likely are teacher or support staff to use their allocated days, to take that Friday off and make it an extended weekend?” Lundin said. “And second, will students return as well or will parents decide to take the day and visit family?”

District 14 has more than 6,000 students attending 11 schools - seven elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools, Adams City and Lester Arnold. Lundin said the teaching positions at those schools are all fully staffed.

“We have been able to recover (from COVID) in large part because teachers, administrators and support staff have been remarkably persistent and wanted to see their kids thrive in the aftermath of the pandemic,” Lundin said.

But the district also relies on a group of 97 substitute teachers, between paraprofessionals and certified teachers, many of whom work in several Metro Denver school districts throughout the year.

“We have had a shortage of substitutes, not just at Adams 14, but across the state. This is a state-wide issue,” he said.

Adams 12 Five Star School District and Boulder Valley also decided to cancel classes on Nov. 12.

“That's why both Adams 12 and Boulder Valley came to the same conclusion, for the same reason,” Lundin said. “The conclusion we all came to is that it's more disruptive to return kids to school on Friday with the potential of some portion of teachers not being back, and then having to shuffle classes because you do not have as ready a pool of substitutes as you would like.”

Representatives from Adams 12 could not be reached for comment.

Lundin said it should not be a regular problem for the district because the Veterans Day holiday is tied to the Nov. 11 date, which can be on different days of the week depending on the year.

“So it's very rare to have a free-standing Thursday holiday with an expectation of returning on the following Friday,” he said. “We don't expect to see this situation duplicated.”

Lundin said it's a practical decision, but also one made because district leaders know how difficult life has been for the past 18 months.

“It's been done more out of an abundance of caution than anything else,” Lundin said. “And, an abundance of wanting to give a thank you to our staff, who have been working their tails off for the last 18 months to two years. It has been an intense, non-stop bouncing-back from the unexpected. So, if we can give something back to our staff and students, it's a win-win situation all around.”


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