One school district in Arizona was forced to cancel classes after teachers staged a “sickout,” BuzzFeed News reports.
The J.O. Combs Unified School District was scheduled to return to in-classroom learning Monday.
The district’s governing board voted to go back to the classroom even though it failed to meet the criteria provided by the state, according to a statement from staff members that was obtained by BuzzFeed News.
“Any reopening to in-person school before the guideline metrics developed by the AZ Department of Health represent a serious disregard for the safety of both students and staff,” the statement from staff members said.
In a letter sent to parents Friday, the school district’s superintendent Gregory Wyman informed parents school would be canceled Monday after he received an “overwhelming response from staff indicating that they do not feel safe returning to classrooms with students.”
“In response, we have received a high volume of staff absences for Monday citing health and safety concerns,” he wrote to parents.
After reviewing the district’s pandemic plan, a majority of the staff members agreed it was unsafe for them to return to campuses Monday, the teachers wrote in their statement.
The district announced Friday all classes, even virtual learning, were canceled.
According to the Arizona Republic, at least 109 staff members called in sick.
“Due to these insufficient staffing levels, schools will not be able to reopen on Monday as planned,” Wyman said in his letter.
Wyman said he does not know how long the absences will last or when school will resume.
Staff members told the school district “the risk of infection is too high” until Pinal County meets the state metrics set by the Arizona Department of Health determining it was safe to reopen.
In addition to a high infection rate, staff members said there is a lack of recommended sanitization supplies to clean schools and essential supplies to safely reopen campuses.
“Until we receive the necessary supplies to maintain our inventory, we will remain at a higher risk of infection of our students and staff,” their statement said.
They also said staff members had not received “adequate and clear procedures” about their responsibilities in handling students returning to campus. They wrote there had been no staff training on COVID-19 policies and sanitization procedures.
They asked the school board to continue virtual learning through the first quarter to allow time for the state metrics to be met, for back-ordered supplies to arrive and to properly train staff.
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