Evanston-Skokie school district cancels classes this week, citing inadequate staffing and support

EVANSTON, Ill. (WLS) -- Evanston-Skokie School District 65 canceled classes for Monday and Tuesday, leaving some parents scrambling to make last-minute childcare arrangements.

The district sent out a note to parents of students pre-K through eighth grade Friday, citing inadequate staffing and support. Classes will resume on Monday, Nov. 29.

"I will be honest, my husband is a teacher and they frown down upon people taking days off before and after vacations or holidays," mother Sara Race said. "And so I am really surprised that it is acceptable at District 65."

"I think we could have known earlier if they were thinking about it, for sure, yeah," said Larissa Tripp, who headed to Old Orchard Mall with her boys to fill a few of the hours. "But I do feel for all of the families who have children who are younger or have to go into work who are struggling over these couple of days."

"I was pretty excited that we were going to have more days off, but I also feel bad for the people who are working," said Matt Tripp, a 6th grader at Haven Middle School.

Over the weekend, the district acknowledged the short notice of the extended holiday would put caregivers in a bind.

"This decision was made both in the interest of safety and the mental health of our team," district Superintendent Devon Horton said.

School district officials believed they would not have adequate staffing or substitute coverage for students. But several days of meals will be available for pick-up for all D65 students at Chute, Haven, and Nichols on Monday from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., district officials said.

RELATED: How to keep holiday gatherings safe as experts predict surge of cases after Thanksgiving

The district will need to extend its school year two days as a result of the decision. The last day of school for K-8 students will now be Wednesday, June 8, pending the use of any additional Emergency Days. The last day for JEH students will be June 6.

District officials asked members of the community to respect and understand the decision, saying "Stress is causing burnout and people are juggling personal and professional responsibilities, and a myriad of challenges catalyzed by the pandemic. As an organization we must acknowledge this and support those directly responsible for the learning and care of our students and afford them this time and opportunity."

There are several reports the teachers may have been responding to messages from their union, the District Educators Council of District 65, to take Monday and Tuesday off as mental health days because of the challenges of COVID-19 and the other issues around teaching.

ABC7 emailed and called the union, and even went to the union offices to try to get a response, but has received nothing.

"Obviously, everybody is tired. Everybody works a lot but... what about the students, what are they going to do? How are they going to learn?" said Monte Monaco, who wants students back in schools. "It seems like a little bit of a strong arm, a mob boss in a way right... You know, you tell your people, 'Hey, if you were going to show up, let everybody know and figure it out. It seems kind of suspect doesn't it?"

ABC7's calls to Evanston and Skokie District 65 for further comment also were not returned.
Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.