Arizona teachers stage ‘sickout’

by WorldTribune Staff, August 16, 2020

An Arizona school district canceled its planned Monday reopening after more than 100 teachers called in sick.

J.O. Combs Unified School District superintendent Gregory A. Wyman said Friday that “we 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,” Wyman said in a statement. “Due to these insufficient staffing levels, schools will not be able to re-open on Monday as planned.”

A school district spokeswoman told the Arizona Republic that 109 certified staff had put in for absences on Monday. The district has about 600 employees, 250 of whom are teachers.

Arizona teachers’ unions have fought plans to reopen schools for in-person learning, arguing that teachers will be exposing themselves to unreasonable risk from the virus. Some teachers have underscored the point at protests by drafting wills and writing “obituaries,” Valerie Richardson reported for The Washington Times on Saturday.

The Phoenix-area school district had planned to open for the fall semester with a mix of in-person and remote learning, but the sickout means that “all classes, including virtual learning, will be canceled,” Wyman said.

“At this time, we do not know the duration of these staff absences, and cannot yet confirm when in-person instruction may resume,” said Wyman.

On the AZ In-Person Education is Essential page on Facebook, parents blasted the sickout and vowed to explore charter and private school options.

“What a joke. They should all be fired! This is why people are upset with teachers,” said one parent. “They are using our children as pawns. The sooner the money follows the student, the better.”

The Arizona Education Association, a National Education Association affiliate, has called for delaying in-person classes until “at least the end of the first nine weeks of the school calendar,” while the American Federation of Teachers last month authorized the use of “safety strikes.”

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