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Parents of West Ada students upset, frustrated with the rocky school year, teachers' planned 'sick-out' day

West Ada parents have expressed anger regarding technical issues that affected the first week of the school year and delayed decisions of the school board.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — On Thursday, West Ada School District notified parents and teachers that school would be canceled on Monday, Oct. 19. 

A total of 652 teachers have called out sick in response to the recent decision by the West Ada school board: to continue conducting classes in a hybrid model in the red category. Central District Health placed Ada County schools in the red category, meaning community transmission of the COVID-19 virus is high, earlier this week.

West Ada parents have expressed anger regarding technical issues that affected the first week of the school year and delayed decisions of the school board. 

This has lead to parent protests calling for in-person classes every day, an effort to recall the entire West Ada board of trustees, and a walk-out planned by district teachers.

Sara Bell, one of the teachers planning to take part in the "sick-out", claimed the board is not sticking to the reopening plans they agreed to in August: conducting classes remotely in the red category.

There are 2,145 teachers in the West Ada School District, however, which means many of them are planning to not take part in the protest on Monday. One of those teachers shared a letter she sent to the school board and the superintendent on Thursday.

As a kindergarten teacher, she is happy with the way classes are being held right now, in a hybrid setting as opposed to remote-only.

"As an educator, I have an obligation to stand up for what is best for my students. Therefore, the suggestion from the union that the Monday Sick-Out may be extended should demand to move into red not be met is appalling. This is unprofessional, not collaborative, and frankly not helpful. It is purely on behalf of the staff and without regard to student needs. We may not be medical staff charged with saving lives, but with what we know about high school dropout rates for students not reading at grade level by the third grade and the uncertainty of how long we will be facing this virus or another, an unnecessary shift to remote learning instead of in-class instruction could have a profound impact on the future of many.If it is deemed safe for (students) to attend school, then it is safe for staff to be in attendance. I ask that the threat (of calling in sick) be rejected in its entirety and called out for its unprofessional nature and disrespect to the commitment we made to students when we entered the profession. Please respect my need for anonymity because I am afraid of hostility from those I work closely with that are part of that group of 700."

Many parents have echoed this sentiment from West Ada teachers. Lala-vee Foster is a mother of three elementary school children in the West Ada district. 

Foster works from home and her husband is a nurse who she said, most days, has no more personal protection equipment (PPE) than gloves and a mask.

She listened in on the school board meetings this week and said what's happening with our schools is hard for everyone, but is working.

"I felt like a lot of parents were frustrated by some of the things they were saying," Foster said. "A lot of us have had to work and learn to do their jobs, and so it's frustrating when the rest of us have had to do that." 

At the beginning of the school year, the West Ada board agreed to certain criteria to combat COVID-19, but that criteria have since changed, according to Foster.

"Over the course of this pandemic we're learning more and more about this virus, we're learning things that work and don't, and we have to have some flexibility," she said. "Even though our community numbers are high, the schools are not. It's not coming from the schools." 

The West Ada teacher's union has already said this protest is planned to last longer than one day. Should the "sick-out" last longer than a day, Foster worries what it could mean for her young children.

"It feels like we're in a situation where the teachers and the parents are being pitted against each other, and I support them, all the levies, I support all of that and our teachers," she said. "It feels like it's pitting us against them and I feel like that's going to do damage to the relationship between the community and our teachers." 

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