Bemidji Schools declares emergency COVID closure day for Jan. 18

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Jan. 13—BEMIDJI — The Bemidji Area School District has declared an emergency COVID closure day for Tuesday, Jan. 18 due to substitute teacher shortages and related health concerns.

"Our ability to maintain the capacity to operate our schools and facilities is being greatly strained," Superintendent Tim Lutz said in a statement. "ISD 31 is experiencing what metro and other schools are struggling with to keep operations staffed due to a number of issues related to COVID, influenza, the common cold and more."

Lutz detailed that the district's teacher substitute fill rate over the past few days has been under 50%, meaning more than half of open and necessary positions remain unfilled. These include transportation, food service, custodians, paraprofessionals and other support staff.

The staffing shortage and increased student absences lead to district leaders extending the Martin Luther King holiday break by an extra day.

As such, all practices, activities and uses of all district facilities will be canceled from Sunday, Jan. 16 through Tuesday, Jan. 18.

"The goal of the lengthened break is to provide the time necessary for students and ISD 31 staff to rest, recover and return to school healthy," Lutz said. "This is just one of many mitigation strategies the district is implementing to assure the safety and health of our ISD 31 community."

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