NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Northland school district is thinking outside the box when it comes to staffing through this pandemic.

In an effort to keep their 21,000 students learning this week, the North Kansas City School District made accommodations for staff struggling with childcare. 

As a way to keep NKC schools open, they’re allowing teachers with school-aged children in the Park Hill School District to bring them to work this Thursday and Friday. Park Hill had to cancel classes both days due to staff shortages from COVID-19.

That means there’s an extra student in Mrs. Van Batavia’s library: her son.

“Louis is 12,” Batavia said. “I mean, he’s old enough to stay home and take care of himself, but I probably would’ve found him knee-deep in Twinkies or something.”

In North Kansas City, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Chad Sutton sent a letter to principals saying, in part:

“Knowing that we have a number of teachers or staff that have school aged children (Kindergarten and up) in Park Hill, it is permissible for teachers to bring their school age children to work with them on Thursday and Friday of this week if childcare is an issue.”

“Child care can be a real issue for a lot of our teachers,” Sutton said. “So we believe that having our teachers in front of our kids is the very best scenario.”

Batavia, a school librarian, felt immediate relief, she said.

Sutton said fewer than 10 teachers took them up on the offer. Across the North Kansas City School District, they still had 200 staff members out due to COVID Thursday.

“We are doing everything we possibly can to keep our schools operating and opening for our kids,” Sutton said.

Some parents supported the district’s flexible strategy. 

“If they didn’t bring them, I guess the option is that they have to stay home, and then we’re also at risk of our school shutting down. And nobody wants that,” NKC parent Kim Hatch said.

Other parents saw it as a health risk with COVID-19 and an opening for interruption.

“It’s tricky. I don’t think kids should come to school with their parents while they’re trying to teach,” NKC parent Shanice Wilson said. “I think it’s a distraction.”

“We really felt strongly that the level of disruption would be very minimal, if any, in our classrooms, as compared to a substitute,” Sutton said. “And again, anything we can do to keep our teachers in front of our students is very important.”

Sutton said this is just a temporary situation. Meanwhile, Park Hill is expected to be back in school Monday.