Students are safely spaced in a kindergarten class, May 18 at Aurora Quest K-8. Classrooms may look different than they did last year. Masks will not be required for students in APS and Cherry Creek Schools District has yet to release their plan, as of this publication. Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

AURORA | Almost 400 Aurora Public Schools teachers and other staff were absent Tuesday, the first day of the spring semester, stretching thin a district that has already been struggling for months with staffing shortages.

At a special board meeting Tuesday evening, district superintendent Rico Munn said that 398 employees were absent, many because they have COVID-19 or are in quarantine. APS has more than 5,000 employees in total.

The district was able to maintain in-person learning for all students, but there are several classrooms that will have to be remote on Wednesday, Munn said.

In a message to families before the start of the semester, the district cautioned that while it will try to maintain in-person learning as much as possible, staff shortages will likely mean that classrooms or entire schools may need to temporarily return to online learning.

The district meets every afternoon to plan for the next school day. Last night there were 180 absences, and by the morning that number had more than doubled, Munn said.

“That’s going to be our reality I would say for at least a week and depending on what happens with this variant, it may stretch into longer,” he said. “The system is already fully stressed, this is another layer of stress upon that.”

He said that the district will be as flexible as possible as it navigates the beginning of spring semester.

APS is currently using its quarantine guidelines from the fall semester as it waits for clarity over the next several days as to whether it should use the new quarantine guidelines released last week by the CDC. The district decided at the beginning of the pandemic that it would adopt the public health guidelines laid out by the Tri-County Health Department.