EBR teachers plan sick-out over COVID concerns, staff shortages

East Baton Rouge Parish teachers plan a sick-out on Wednesday, Jan. 12.
East Baton Rouge Parish teachers plan a sick-out on Wednesday, Jan. 12.(WRDW)
Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 2:37 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 11, 2022 at 3:38 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. - A Baton Rouge teacher union is planning a “sick-out” amid the most recent COVID surge and growing concerns over staffing shortages.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Association of Educators announced in a press conference Tuesday afternoon that over 350 educators are prepared to not show up to work on Wednesday, Jan. 12.

Valencea Johnson, President of the EBRPAE, said the protest is to put pressure on Superintendent Dr. Sito Narcisse to convert the entire East Baton Rouge Parish School District to virtual learning until cases go down significantly.

“Today, we are demanding that the East Baton Rouge Parish School System implement virtual learning for all students,” said Johnson. “We can’t just do nothing. We have schools that are shutting every day.”

However, Dr. Narcisse feels this is not the best option.

“Not having a day in school, is not the answer to that,” said Narcisse.

Dr. Narcisse said going virtual isn’t as easy as it sounds.

In order to make that transition, there’s certain criteria that must be met. He said schools have to hit a certain positivity rate that is centered around school enrollment.

Those criteria can be found here.

Dr. Narcisse said you have to consider the other impacts of going virtual, such as LDH guidance and types of positions that would be affected.”I don’t think this is the best time to not be in school. To help support our families and our students, it’s important for us to stay in school, so we can help mitigate challenges that are happening,” said Narcisse.

Those other impacts are a big reason why the city’s other union, The East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers, and the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana, do not agree with this move.Angela Reams-Brown, President of the East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers, explained why.

“Now think about that, we’re already below the Southern regional average in pay. Our support workers already don’t make that much money, who can afford to miss a whole day pay? Nobody,” said Brown.

Brown said this would create more problems for parents and students.

Brown asked, “what about little Johnny who mother works at Walmart, he’s in the first grade, and he can’t stay home by himself? What does mama do? Does she leave Johnny at home and leave him latchkey and worry about what he’s doing all day? Or does she stay at home, miss a day pay because Johnny can’t go to school?”Brown explained that school is not just a place to learn for some students.

”What about little Mary who is homeless, who depends on breakfast and lunch at school, what does she eat at those two meals on Wednesday when she can’t come to the schoolhouse,” Brown continued.

Brown said she called a meeting between Dr. Narcisse, LAE, and APEL to try to come up with a solution after she heard about the possible protest. Johnson said LAE did not attend the meeting and explained their absence.

“There was no point for us to go if [Narcisse] was not going to be there to present us with a solution,” said Johnson.

Johnson said parents and teachers have reached out showing support, and they claim they are willing to carry this protest beyond tomorrow if they have to.

“We’re not saying forever, we don’t want it to be forever, we know the best place is in the classroom. However, the best place is not in the classroom with the surge in COVID,” said Johnson.

EBR teachers plan sick-out over COVID concerns, staff shortages
EBR teachers plan sick-out over COVID concerns, staff shortages(WAFB)

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