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More than 500 West Ada teachers call in sick again for Tuesday

The West Ada School District says classes will be canceled for a second day.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — A planned "sick-out" by teachers who are unsatisfied with the West Ada School District's response to the coronavirus pandemic will continue again Tuesday.

More than 500 teachers have called in sick for Tuesday, according to President of West Ada Education Association Eric Thies, the president of the teachers union. 

The teachers union met with West Ada district officials Monday morning to discuss plans moving forward.

"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," he said. 

The district asked Thies if they could have some time to put together a plan to address various needs. He responded by saying that he would not call for a sick out on Wednesday but that he would only call the Tuesday sickout off if the board reached out to the teachers union or called an emergency meeting. 

The West Ada School District announced that classes would be canceled on Tuesday.

"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. "We are continuing to work with the West Ada Education Association to find solutions to their concerns so we can hold school on Wednesday."

Classes were canceled on Monday after 652 teachers called in sick, leaving the district with far too few substitutes to fill in the gaps.

The planned "sick-outs" came after the West Ada School Board voted to allow students to return to in-person classes on alternating days starting Monday, despite Ada County being in the "red" category. Multiple teachers at the meeting expressed concern that safety measures put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 were inadequate or would not be followed in an in-person learning setting.

Thies said the board must be able able to enforce physical distancing inside school buildings and teachers must be given more time to prepare proper instructions for when students are at home, either quarantined or having called out sick. The district responded by saying they have a plan to address those concerns. 

"Our regional directors are reaching out to principals to find out what classrooms specifically are overcrowded on those alternating days, what classrooms are having issues with physical distancing and what can we do to do to accommodate that," Jackson said. "Does furniture need to be moved out? Do we need to think of other creative solutions?" 

During a board meeting on Oct. 13, a proposal brought to the board that would give teachers more time to plan by schools going fully remote on Mondays was denied. Jackson said this proposal will likely come before the board again and is hopeful it will pass.

Thies is happy that the district is making efforts to reason with concerned teachers, but ultimately, it's the school board that needs to take action.

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