South Kitsap schools announce emergency closure Jan. 14-18

District officials say there’s not enough staff to conduct classroom learning

PORT ORCHARD — South Kitsap School District officials said Thursday morning that district schools will be closed Friday through Tuesday because of critical staff vacancies caused in part by spiking COVID-19 activity.

In a letter sent to SKSD families, Superintendent Tim Winter wrote that the district “cannot safely operate school with the current level of staff absences.”

Despite looking at possible scenarios in which the district would be able to conduct classes, Winter said the absence of nearly 200 staff members is too great of an obstacle to overcome.

“The short-term sacrifice of closing school will support the bigger picture of keeping our school campuses open in the long term,” Winter said.

The superintendent said the district continues to work closely with Kitsap Public Health District officials and is following directives from the Washington Department of Health.

“The COVID activity in our area requires a public health intervention to cool off the spread of the virus and allow absent staff time to finish their quarantine requirements,” he said.

The district said students are to return to campus next Wednesday. SKSD had already planned to close on Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Winter said the two closure days will likely be made up at the end of the school year.

“The next five days will serve as a public health intervention in our school community,” said Amy Miller, SKSD communications and public information officer.

KPHD confirmed Thursday 441 new COVID-19 cases countywide in the previous 24 hours, with 156 in South Kitsap. Cases are rising for children ages 14-19, the age group with the highest rate of increase.