MERIDIAN, Idaho — School will resume Wednesday in the West Ada School District, with half of the district's students returning to their classrooms for in-person learning.
Classes were canceled both Monday and Tuesday after hundreds of teachers called in sick in protest of what they said was district leaders' unsatisfactory handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The West Ada School Board voted earlier this month to return students to school on an alternating-day in-person basis despite Central District Health's warnings that Ada County was in the "red" category for COVID-19 transmission.
West Ada School District spokeswoman Char Jackson said Tuesday afternoon that the district has been in communication with teachers, and have been assured the "sick-out" will not continue Wednesday.
"West Ada School District is committed to balancing in person learning, the safety of its students and teachers and Covid-19 protocols," Jackson wrote. "Over the past few days, the focus has been specifically working with the West Ada Education Association to find a solution that would ensure teachers feel safe and allow school to take place on Monday and Tuesday. Those efforts were not successful, but teachers have assured us that school will happen on Wednesday."
Late Tuesday night, Eric Thies, president of the West Ada Education Association, released a statement saying that while the teachers union is disappointed that they have not been able to reach an agreement on the issue, they will hold off on any more sick-outs until the school board can meet again next Tuesday.
The district said it would continue working to address teachers' concerns and will visit classrooms teachers say can not be socially-distanced to find a solution.
As the district and teachers work to find common ground, a group of parents on Tuesday filed a lawsuit, arguing that the sick-out was an "illegal union strike."
A news release from the Liberty Justice Center and Idaho Freedom Foundation stated that the goal of the lawsuit was to prevent teachers from organizing another sick-out as a way to force the district to meet their demands.
"After weeks and months of preparing to return to school, the teachers union held kids' education hostage because it was not happy with the reopening plans agreed upon by school officials and the community," said Dustin Hurst, vice president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which is supporting the parents in this lawsuit. "Not only is this type of behavior morally reprehensible and harmful to our kids, it's illegal.
"The teachers union must know that it cannot threaten to withhold education from our kids in order to pressure the community to meet its demands," Hurst added.
Meanwhile, West Ada has asked Dr. David Pate, the former CEO of St. Luke’s and a member of the state’s coronavirus task force, to meet with teachers virtually to address their concerns. Pate has also conducted an evaluation of the district's reopening plan, and a final draft of his findings will be presented to the school board at the meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 27.
"West Ada School District believes these are important first steps to improve safety concerns," Jackson wrote.
In-person classes will begin with Team 2 on Wednesday. Check back for updates.
At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.
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