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Citing staffing concerns, Bayfield School District abruptly cancels classes for Friday

Superintendent says staff members need the downtime, substitute teachers in short supply
Bayfield School District canceled classes for students on Friday, citing staffing concerns. (Durangno Herald file)

Bayfield School District abruptly canceled school for all students on Friday, saying it is dealing with staffing concerns and must give employees a chance to catch up.

“We realize this ... is an inconvenience for our community,” Superintendent Kevin Aten said Thursday afternoon in a prepared statement. “We appreciate the Bayfield community’s support for our staff during this challenging year, and tomorrow will allow our remaining staff to have a much-needed catch-up day.

“Our teachers and staff have been covering classes and putting in extra days and hours to keep in-person learning going, so we appreciate the community coming together on Friday to support our Bayfield Schools staff,” he added.

Friday remains a workday for staff members, but teachers won’t have the added responsibility of supervising children, Aten said in an interview with The Durango Herald.

The canceling of school comes a day before the weeklong fall break is set to begin.

Aten said about 200 students of the nearly 1,400 student body were expected to be out of school anyway on Friday. But he said he understands the hardship it places on working families who have not had time to plan on child care for Friday.

“I would love to have given the community weeks of notice, but in where we are right now, we kind of have to make decisions quickly,” he said.

Aten said Bayfield School District, like school districts across the country, is facing a shortage in substitute teachers. And finding substitutes becomes especially difficult around the holidays.

The school district pays $100 a day for substitute teachers, but is preparing to increase that amount to $120 per day, he said.

Aten said teachers need staff time to get caught up so they can have a restful Thanksgiving break.

Friday will not be treated like a snow day, in which the whole district is closed. Extracurricular activities will continue and staff will be working, he said.

“We have staff members who are really overdue on grading, they’re covering extra classes, they’re taking extra (time) during planning periods because of the substitute shortage,” Aten said. “We’re in it with a lot of other districts that are having a severe substitute shortage.”

The school district is evaluating its pay scales, and its recruitment and retention efforts for next year, he said.

shane@durangoherald.com

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