School leaders in New Jersey and elsewhere are dealing with a flood of leave requests from teachers, and it’s creating a cascading effect that’s forcing some schools to shift to full time virtual instruction.
School District of the Chathams Superintendent Mike LaSusa told NJ.com the district plans to hold in-person classes but was forced to move the start date back a week because of teacher leave requests.
“We are not in a place right now where we have to close, but if we’re faced with a continuing increase in the number of leave inquiries and potential leaves we could be in a different position a week from now, or ten days from now,” LaSusa said at a Monday school board meeting.
“It’s been unpredictable which districts are closing or opening all remotely and that’s putting new inquiries and potentially new leaves on the table, every single day that goes by.”
LaSusa described the situation for NJ.com:
“They go something like this: ‘Mike, I have a 9-year-old and a 7-year-old,’” LaSusa said, explaining that the unnamed teacher’s husband works at a job without scheduling flexibility and her mother-in-law, who ordinarily would help out, is 81 with several underlying health conditions and unable to assist due to the pandemic.
“When my district announced they were going to go two days one week, three days the next, I found a college student who was willing to watch my kids and I thought I could patch through,” LaSusa recalled the unnamed teacher saying, “but then three days ago, my district announced it was all-virtual, and I’m in a bind right now, I have no options, I don’t know what to do. I’m considering taking a leave of absence.”
“That’s the dynamic that we’re facing,” LaSusa said.
The Montville school district was among the most recent in New Jersey to announced a shift to fully virtual classes after 19 teachers informed officials they won’t be returning.
It’s a dynamic that’s certainly not unique to New Jersey. Across the country, teachers unions are encouraging members to protest against resuming classes in person, allegedly over fears of contracting the coronavirus.
In Jacksonville, Florida, 80 teachers in the Duval County School district called in sick or used sick days to avoid the first day of school last week, a sickout that ironically followed in-person teacher protests against reopening schools to in-person learning, WJXT reports.
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The stunt was organized through a private Facebook group of more than 2,600 educators.
“Anyone else not feeling well? I have a tummy ache and might have to call in sick tomorrow,” one DCPS teacher wrote.
“I’m sick to my stomach,” Andrew Jackson High School teacher Bradley Fisher said. “I’m morally sick. I’m sick with panic and fear for my students and my colleagues and their lives.”
Fisher called in sick, but taught his classes virtually.
“I took this day in solidarity with many of my colleagues across the district. I’m possibly more vocal about it than many of them who did not show up to school today,” Fisher said. “I don’t want to have cooperated or assisted in any way in what I view to be negligent homicide, and maybe it won’t be students, but it’ll be their families.”