West Ada School District to continue hybrid learning model, union says 700 teachers to 'sickout' Monday

Posted at 4:57 PM, Oct 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-16 10:35:25-04

West Ada School District will continue with its hybrid learning model following Central District Health's shifting Ada County to category three for COVID-19 spread.

West Ada School District Board of Trustees voted to keep both middle and high school students in an alternating schedule and move elementary students into the hybrid model as well, beginning Monday, Oct. 19.

"Before we make a motion, I do hope the staff can see that we are listening to your concerns, we are hearing you, we are taking steps to ensure our safety protocols are working and they are being addressed," board trustee Rene Ozuna said. "That said, we also don't know that our technology will support all of our students being 100% remote. To find a balance between those two, my motion tonight is we move ahead, effective on Monday, with the alternating day schedule for elementary, middle and high school, which will keep middle school and high school on the same schedule they are on, but move elementary to an alternating day schedule."

The Board also appointed Philip Neuhoff as the new chairman of the board. Current West Ada School Distict Chief Communications Officer Char Jackson will fill the role of temporary board clerk.

West Ada Education Association (WAEA) President Eric Thies said in a statement prior to the meeting that district educators "concerns have often been dismissed, and our basic need for a safe working environment is not being met" and they are "prepared to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that the voices of educators are not marginalized."

"As a result, the West Ada Education Association is taking a firm stance. If the West Ada School District is in the Red Category, instruction must be remote. The spread of COVID-19 in our schools and our community is increasing and it is time for the school board to follow the science, listen to the educators who are in school buildings every day, and prioritize the health of students and staff," the statement reads.

The WAEA is planning for a "sickout" on Monday, which currently includes as many as 700 teachers, should the district not shift to full remote learning.

"We are going to have a percentage of our teachers, and I don't know what that percentage is, who will not support that idea and we have been told that if we are anything other than full remote on Monday, that sick-out if you will, will go forward as planned,"said Bret Heller, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning.

Heller said the current number of teachers who have called in sick currently is "significant" and "more than we are going to be able to cover with subs right now."

Eric Thies, WAEA president, said there are too many students per classroom and they are not able to socially distance, which breaks the health and safety guidelines from both local and national health organizations.

"Now that cases are climbing, within our district and schools and community, it is time to actually do something that increase the safety in our classroom that doesn't increase the risk, Thies said. "What you're asking is teachers do nothing to protect themselves and their students during this very difficult time. There is not a teacher in this district that doesn't love their job and love their students. It hurts me to say that if we are not remote on Monday, we are not going into our buildings."

Watch the full meeting here: