‘Enough is enough’: Idaho teachers roasted for mass ‘sick-out’ on second day of COVID protests

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Teachers in Idaho’s largest public school district were ripped online after more than 500 of them called in sick for the second day in a row in protest of the board’s decision to reopen to in-person classes.

The teachers, who are employed by the West Ada School District in Meridian, are upset about the decision, though talks between union and school officials are ongoing.

“We had a conversation, I think it went well and I think we are moving in the right direction, I get the sense that district administrators want to address the concerns of teachers and I think that that’s really important,” West Ada Education Association President Eric Thies told KTVB.

The large number of call-ins were unable to be filled by substitutes because the district does not have that many to call, officials said.

School administrators asked Thies for time to formulate a plan to address various concerns expressed by teachers. He responded by saying he would not call for another sick-out on Wednesday, adding that he would have only called off the Tuesday sick-out if the school had agreed to an emergency meeting, which didn’t happen.

“We are sadly unable to safely hold school tomorrow due to supervision concerns. This includes students enrolled in Virtual Schoolhouse, and students who would have been learning remotely,” the district said in a statement to KTVB.

“We are continuing to work with the West Ada Education Association to find solutions to their concerns so we can hold school on Wednesday,” the statement continued.

On Monday, 652 teachers called in sick.

The sick-outs began after the school board voted to have students return to in-person learning on alternating days beginning on Monday, though Ada County remains in the “red” category for COVID-19 positives.

Several teachers at the board meeting reportedly expressed doubts that safety protocols implemented to slow the spread of the virus were not sufficient or would not be adhered to during in-person instruction settings.

Thies said the school board had to make sure it has a plan to enforce social distancing requirements inside school buildings and that teachers had to have more time to complete instructions for when students are learning at home, either when they are quarantined or after having called in sick.

District officials said they have a plan to take care of those issues.

Parents are divided on the union’s decision to walk out.

“I understand the teachers’ concern, but they didn’t even give in-school learning a shot,” said one person who spoke to Idaho Ed News. “Kids are germy. But at their age, they’re very resilient.”

“It’s unfortunate that our kids have to miss out on education because the district won’t follow safety protocols,” said Jenna Zanelli, who has two students currently enrolled in the district’s online program. “But I’m very glad teachers are standing up for themselves.”

“Teachers are essential,” parent Ben Faux, who is also frustrated that the school board did not seem prepared, said. “If teachers are afraid, they need to look for other jobs.”

“I don’t think it’s fair to any of the kids,” said parent Nick Campbell. “Just the entire situation.”

Users on social media blasted the teachers, though.

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Jon Dougherty

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