By Dillon Thomas

DENVER (CBS4) — Denver Public Schools, the largest district in Colorado, canceled all classes on Nov. 19, due largely in-part to a staffing shortage. Superintendent Alex Marrero said the decision to start Thanksgiving break early was associated with a shortage of substitutes, a desire to give families the opportunity to prioritize vaccinations and to give a token of gratitude to employees.

(credit: CBS)

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Marrero said teachers often don’t use their paid time off in the first couple months of the school year, adding that many ask for time off as the holidays approach.

“(Giving the day off) provides our students, families and educators extra time to exhale, care for themselves and their families. To rest, recharge and rejuvenate,” Marrero said.

Lacey Nelson, DPS’ lead when it comes to talent acquisition, said the district has seen the same shortage of substitutes which many districts have had since the pandemic started.

“Ideally we would have at least 1,200 active working substitute teachers on pay roll with us,” Nelson told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas.

However, the district currently has less than 400 substitutes to call upon during times of need.

(credit: CBS)

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“Everyone is not nearly where they want to be,” Nelson said.

“It has been sluggish, but it has been sluggish across the nation. We are all competing for the same individuals, whether substitutes or bus drivers,” Marrero said.

Staff will be paid on Nov. 19 even though they won’t be asked to report to work. Marrero said the idea of giving employees a paid day off was actually fueled by a suggestion from the U.S. Department of Education.

At the same time, the district hoped parents would use the day to get their children vaccinated.

“It is most importantly a day to maximize the vaccination efforts we have undertaken,” Marrero said.

DPS said they do not intend to make it a habit of giving time off when it comes to possible shortages of staff.

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“We do not anticipate it being a commonality in DPS,” Marrero said.

Dillon Thomas