Return to Headlines

Staff and parent update from Dr. Marty -- January 5

1/5/2022 -- The below letter from Superintendent Dr. Keith Marty was sent to parents and staff. 

Dear Parkway Parents:

We were excited to welcome students back to school today. Today was also challenging in that we saw significant absences among students and staff.

I want to share some important updates about our staffing challenges and also reminders as we keep our students safe and as healthy as possible.

If your child is not feeling well, they should not attend school. Please stay in touch with your school nurse to report COVID-19 related illness and test results. If students are sick or have symptoms of COVID-19 at school, you should go home with instructions from the school nurse/contact tracer. I have included below the instructions for students who test positive or have symptoms of COVID.

As a result of significant staff illness and absences, we are facing challenges that may require us to make adjustments based on the availability of staff at each individual school.

  • Over 240 Parkway teachers are absent for a number of reasons including being positive for COVID-19, absent due to illness, awaiting test results or caring for sick family members. This is roughly twice the normal amount and represents nearly 20% of Parkway teachers absent from work today. 
  • Today about 50% of teacher absences are not covered by a sub in our classrooms.  School leaders and support staff are working to cover classrooms and ensure the safety and supervision of all students today but these levels of absence are not ideal or sustainable for student safety and learning. Due to a nationwide substitute teacher shortage, there are only so many substitutes available in the region and limited staff members available to cover classrooms to make sure students are safe.
  • Student absences at school today averaged between 13-19%.

Our goal is to provide a safe in-person learning environment, adequate supervision for students and quality instruction at school each day. If we cannot accomplish these goals, it is possible a school building may need to close and shift to temporary distance learning for a short time until the situation improves at that school.

A shift to temporary distance learning at a school could be triggered by significant illness and absences among teachers without adequate substitute coverage in a school; significant illness and absences among students in a school; and operational staff absences in a school or across the district (bus drivers, food service, custodial, etc.).

We want to keep healthy students and staff in school and maximize in-person learning. Each school is unique in the volume of cases and absences at a given time. Therefore, we plan to make these decisions on a school-by-school basis. You can follow health conditions by school here on the Community Health Dashboard

If we need to shift to temporary distance learning at your school, we will notify you as soon as possible. We are very closely monitoring absences right now and receiving updates multiple times per day so we can proactively make decisions.

To ensure students can continue learning in the event of a shift, students in grades K-2 will begin bringing Chromebooks home in the coming days. Principals will provide additional information for families of students in grades K-2 soon.

Again, we wanted you to be aware so you may prepare for the possibility of a temporary shift to distance learning at your school. We encourage you to make emergency plans as a family now in case this occurs.

We recognize the significant impact of these decisions so we are doing everything possible to avoid any closures. If it becomes necessary for a temporary period of time at a school, we will need to adjust quickly to ensure the safety of students and staff.

I have a few other updates as we support the health of our school communities in the weeks ahead:

  • We will continue our current practice of limiting visitors and volunteers in our schools until further notice.
  • School-sponsored events and activities in January will be rescheduled or held virtually.
  • MSHSAA athletics and activities will continue to follow MSHSAA guidelines.

We know this is a challenging time, but in talking with our medical community, I’m also hopeful that when we get through this wave better times are ahead for us.

Thank you for your ongoing support,

Dr. Marty