PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Classes will resume Tuesday, both in person and virtual, after Monday's "sickout" in the Peoria Unified School District.
An estimated 16,000 students didn't go to class Monday after hundreds of teachers called out, due to the rising numbers of COVID-19. Over the weekend, the district announcing that a number of its schools would remain closed Monday, Jan. 11 because of a lack of staffing.
The shutdown means both in-person and online learning won't happen at those schools.
However, The district says that all 42 of its schools are now adequately staffed for in-person and virtual learning on Tuesday, Jan. 12. (The district has been in hybrid learning mode.) "I appreciate your patience and support through the changes," read a statement from Superintendent Jason Reynolds." I recognize that learning in a pandemic has not been ideal, but I am proud of our community and how they have persevered through adversity."
Some teachers have said that soaring COVID-19 numbers in our state left them with no other option but to call in sick.
School districts in the Phoenix-area are starting to alter in-person learning plans as COVID-19 cases grow in Maricopa County.
However, parent Heather Rooks believes teachers aren't taking all students into consideration when they make these sort of moves. Rooks has two boys on the autism spectrum: 5-year-old Luke and 8-year-old Emmett. “I am not looking for a babysitter, I am looking for somebody to teach my child math, science and English," said Rooks.
But at what cost, teachers ask. The West Valley Alliance teacher’s union helped organize that 600 out of 2,100 teachers at Peoria Unified School district call out Monday. "It’s not fair that you have teachers that are showing up and they are there teaching our kids, and you have others walking out in a strike. These kids with disabilities, they need that socialization with other kids in their class, that instruction,” said Rooks.
The teacher’s union said, on the contrary, it’s the students' health they have in mind, especially, children with disabilities who are sometimes at a higher risk.
They sent Arizona’s Family this statement:
Employees have been asking to put themselves and their students in harm’s way. They have attempted to work with their districts for several weeks to no avail. These teachers want to be with their students, but they also want it to be safe for everyone.
In December, the Peoria governing board opted to allow students to return to in person classes following Winter break, regardless of current health metrics.
The board is scheduled to revisit the issue of how to use the public health metrics at an open meeting on Thursday.
Here is the full statement from the Peoria Unified district that was released ion Monday:
By now you have experienced or heard that 13 of Peoria Unified’s schools were closed today. Throughout the day, we have closely monitored the staff absence data and I am thrilled to share that all 42 of our schools are adequately staffed for in-person and virtual learning tomorrow, Tuesday, January 12.
I know that today’s closures may have left you or your child feeling frustrated and confused. This year, our students and families have had to pivot in many directions and I want you to know that I appreciate your patience and support through the changes. I recognize that learning in a pandemic has not been ideal, but I am proud of our community and how they have persevered through adversity.
Our district has made every effort to accommodate choice for our families through a hybrid model of both in-person and virtual learning. Never in our 132-year history have we been tested to continue to deliver rigorous and engaging academic and extracurricular experiences for our students in the face of so many obstacles. Through it all, I remain committed to the safety of each and every one of our students and staff members. I will continue to advocate and reinforce our mitigation procedures including wearing masks, disinfecting our campuses and encouraging each one of our staff members to register for the COVID-19 vaccine.
If there are future updates or changes that will impact your child’s regular school day, I will inform you as soon as possible. A reminder that official communication regarding our school or any district closures will always come from district or school emails, our website and/or our Facebook and Twitter feeds.
I look forward to seeing our students learning in the classroom and online tomorrow.
Sincerely, Jason W. Reynolds, ED.D.
Another west Valley district had also planned a sickout for Monday, but it was canceled. On Sunday afternoon, Arizona's Family learned that around 160 teachers in the Dysart Unified School District planned to call out sick on Monday, Jan. 11.
However, a spokesman for DEU (Dysart Educators United) later emailed us, saying that the planned sickout had been cancelled. "The Sick Out action will not proceed, due to being way too close in staff numbers inputting their absences," read a statement from DEU. "At this point, it will simply add stress to our coworkers without helping us toward our goal of virtual until safe metrics are met."
The DEU statement continued:
Our district leadership has and is still showing how little they value the data they had previously used to fully reopen our district to in-person instruction. This is while having teachers meet weekly to review student data... and will keep us going in the classroom, while juggling virtual students and quarantined students, packing them full without any limits.
By no means was this defeat, because now the severity of the district’s safety problem is out in the open, and the district knows they have work to do to try and keep employees for another year.