UPDATE: All but eight Yakima schools will return from remote learning on Jan. 25
Almost 25% of students were absent from school this week
UPDATE on Jan. 21, 2022: Ahead of a return to in-person learning, the Yakima School District confirmed that all but eight of the district’s 25 schools will return to classes on Tuesday, January 25.
These schools, however, will not return until January 31: Hoover Elementary School, McKinley Elementary School, Robertson Elementary School, Roosevelt Elementary School, Franklin Middle School, Lewis and Clark Middle School, Washington Middle School, and Wilson Middle School.
The following story has been left unaltered from its original publishing.
YAKIMA, Wash. — The Yakima School District is moving to remote learning through Jan. 24 due to an unprecedented staffing shortage caused by a spike in COVID-19 cases.
“Over the last three days, we’ve had over 400 employees absent and we’ve seen an increase every day,” YSD Superintendent Trevor Greene said. “The major reason for the shortage absolutely is the impact of Omicron across our state and across our city.”
Greene said there is a shortage of teachers and substitutes to fill in for them, but the main problem is the number of bus drivers, food service workers, school nurses and other operational staff who help to make in-person learning possible.
Additionally, nearly one in four students — 3,711 out of 15,300 — were absent from school Tuesday. Out of that number, 60 students were absent from preschools, about 1,200 were absent from elementary schools and about 2,350 were absent from middle schools or high schools.
The district moved three elementary schools — McKinley, Robertson and Barge-Lincoln — to remote learning for Thursday and Friday. All students will be out of school Monday for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, but will begin remote learning starting Tuesday.
“We know that this is not what our entire population would like to see at this time and we don’t either, but we have to certainly take care of our staff and our students with respect to safety and proper instruction,” Greene said. “We’re just not able to do that in the current situation.”
Out of the 396 school district staff members out Thursday, 113 of those positions went unfilled because there was no substitute teacher available to cover for them. Greene said the district has been working to recruit more substitutes.
“We currently have a $200 a day rate for our substitutes, which is the highest in the area that has helped recruit some individuals,” Greene said. “We do thank those who are a part of our system and encourage those that are interested in being a substitute to come and join our team.”
Anyone wanting to become a substitute in the Yakima School District must have at least a bachelor’s degree and be able to pass a background test and drug test.
Applications are accepted on a monthly basis and if a position is offered, the applicant will need to attend monthly training sessions to become a substitute teacher.
The district is also interested in hiring substitute or permanent bus drivers, along with people to fill the shortage in nutrition services staff members.
“If you are a retiree in our community or perhaps a parent who is not working full-time, we would certainly be interested in connecting you with our opportunities,” YSD Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Jenny Rodriguez said.
Employment opportunities with the Yakima School District can be found here.
District officials will be keeping an eye on staffing levels and COVID-19 levels over the next week to determine whether or not the temporary remote learning period will need to be extended.
“If we need to go longer, we certainly will, but the goal is to not impact the community in a way that is detrimental certainly to our students in being in distance learning long-term,” Greene said. “The goal is to get back as soon as possible.”
Greene said students have already been provided laptops or other devices for remote learning and those who do not have internet access at home will be provided with WiFi hotspots.
Additionally, Green said students continue to benefit from the district’s work with Project Gemini, which has helped allow students to access the district connection when they’re at home.
“We are concerned and continue to be concerned about digital equity,” Greene said. “We have implemented internet that is reaching most of our community, free of charge.”
The district has more information available on its website here, including that:
- Meals will still be provided to students who need them if parents or guardians place an order for them online here by 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 18. Families can pick up a package containing five breakfasts and five lunches per student between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 19.
- COVID-19 testing sites across the district will stay open, but may have to close if they run out of tests.
- Exceptions to remote learning include:
- Special education self-contained classes will continue to meet in-person according to their regular schedule and will still have access to transportation.
- Transitional kindergarten at Barge-Lincoln and Roosevelt elementary schools will continue with in-person learning on Jan. 18.
- YV-Tech will remain open and in-person, but students from the Yakima School District will not have access to bus transportation to get there.
- While middle school athletics and extracurricular activities are cancelled, athletics and extracurricular activities at the high schools will continue. However, the district notes that spectators will not be allowed at home games on days when students are in remote learning, but will be able to watch online. The district recommends contacting students’ coaches or activity supervisors for specific details.
- The district has moved the end date of the first semester to Friday, Jan. 28 to support high school final exams. Report cards will be sent home February 12.
More information about remote learning for Yakima School District students can be found at ysd7.org.
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