TEXARKANA, Ark. – The Texarkana, Arkansas School District announced Thursday afternoon that all schools within the district will close on Friday and return on Monday.
TASD is currently experiencing staff shortages due to the increased number of positive and quarantine cases as Omicron continues to spread across the community. The district did see a decrease in the number of staff absences after the previous school closure; however, the positive and quarantine numbers among staff have increased once again.
Superintendent Dr. Becky Kesler said the district had 15 unfilled positions on Thursday and didn't have enough substitute teachers to fill in. TASD even tried moving district office employees to cover some of those positions.
"Now that we've moved some of our district office people into those places, they've become sick," Kesler said. "So, I have three people out of my office today because we put them in classrooms and they've come in contact with someone who was sick.
"It's like a juggling game. You just can't keep everybody well."
TASD also had eight custodial staff members out as of Thursday and are looking at hiring an additional outside company to help aid in sanitizing buildings.
Kesler commended the substitute teachers within the district who have stepped up to the plate lately, but said at the end of the day there just aren't enough substitutes in the area to go around.
"They have been phenomenal about showing up," she said. "They are there every day. So, I would say that it's probably more so that we just have such a high demand for substitutes now. I don't know that it's so much of a shortage. There's only so many subs to go around in the city, and we're all fighting for the same ones."
Kesler and TASD are hoping that some of the infected staff members will be ready to return by Monday.
"Navigating through this pandemic has been challenging for our staff, students, and the community as a whole; and we try very hard not to close our schools unless it is necessary," according to a TASD press release. "We understand the burden that closing our schools causes on some of our families, and we apologize for the short notice."
All students Pre-K through 12th grade will use Alternative Method of Instruction (AMI) for Friday's school closure which may include instructional paper packets or digital learning.
TASD's custodial services department will continue to deep clean and prepare facilities for staff and students.