Arizona Teachers Stage ‘Sickout,’ Forcing School District to Cancel Re-Opening

A high schools empty hallway because school is closed due to the caronavirus in March 2020.
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Teachers in Arizona have staged a “sickout” that has forced a Phoenix-area school district to abandon its plans to reopen due to “insufficient staffing levels.”

As a result of the “sickout” by more than 100 staff members, the J.O. Combs Unified School District in Pinal County will cancel both in-person and virtual learning for its students.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and experts from many fields have urged schools to reopen, the school district sent out a letter to its families Friday stating “all classes will be canceled.”

Superintendent Dr. Gregory Wyman wrote the Governing Board 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,” the letter stated and continued:

Due to these insufficient staffing levels, schools will not be able to re-open on Monday as planned. This means that all classes, including virtual learning, will be canceled. At this time, we do not know the duration of these staff absences, and cannot yet confirm when in-person instruction may resume.

Since a primary goal of many government schools is now to provide social services to students, Wyman also wrote that “breakfast and lunch meal service for students will still be available for pick up at all elementary schools between 6:30 am and 8:00 am.”

The Arizona Department of Health Services recommends “county-specific public health benchmarks to be in the moderate or minimal transmission category” in three benchmarks for a period of two weeks in order to offer a hybrid model of both virtual and in-person instruction.

The three benchmarks are:

CASES: a two-week decline in the number of cases OR a two-week of a case rate of less than 100 cases per 100,000 population within the county;

PERCENT POSITIVITY: for initial opening, two weeks of percent positivity less than 7% within the county; and

COVID-LIKE ILLNESS (CLI): two weeks with hospital visits due to CLI below 10% within the region.

As Fox News reported, as of Thursday, Pinal County met the “Cases” and “COVID-like illness” benchmarks, but not the “Percent positivity” requirement.

In July, leaders of the #RedforEd movement and teachers’ union leaders in Arizona urged government schools to remain closed.

Reuters reported:

Inspired by Black Lives Matter demonstrations, hundreds of Arizona teachers … are putting on red t-shirts they last wore in a 2018 strike and driving around cities in cars daubed with slogans like: “Remote learning won’t kill us but COVID can!”

With “motor marches” spreading to other coronavirus-hit sunbelt states, including Florida, and counter demonstrators organizing “reopen” rallies, the fight over the new school year is fast becoming America’s new protest flashpoint.

However, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said it is “critically important for our public health to open schools this fall,” and offered CDC resources to assist parents, teachers, and school administrators with safety tools:

Both the J.O. Combs and Queen Creek Unified School Districts had voted to reopen for in-school instruction, but, according to AZ Family, dozens of Queen Creek teachers have resigned, including the president of the Queen Creek Teachers Association.

“The educators that I’ve talked to in Queen Creek are very concerned about the health of their students and their colleagues,” said Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association. “I don’t know how many teachers are going to be ready to teach, but this ups the anxiety they have. We do our best teaching, and students do their best learning when they’re free of distractions.”

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