West Ada cancels school on Monday with massive teacher sick day looming

West Ada School District abruptly canceled school for Monday due to a massive sick day organized by the teachers union in protest of the district’s plans to continue in-person classes under the highest COVID-19 risk category.

Even with a school closure, the situation was far from resolved Friday evening. The West Ada Education Association urged its members to put in for an additional sick day on Tuesday.

School district officials announced the sudden closure in an email sent to parents shortly before 4 p.m. Friday afternoon. A district spokeswoman shared the email with Idaho Education News shortly after sending it to parents.

“Principals, administration, teachers and staff worked hard to cover the absences, but unfortunately, we cannot,” West Ada officials wrote in the email. “With safety in mind, and due to supervision concerns, we are regretfully unable to hold school Monday. We will reassess the situation on Monday and give parents, guardians and staff an update.”

As of late Friday afternoon, the district said 652 of 2,145 district’s classroom teachers called in sick for Monday. That’s 30 percent of all teachers.

The district was unable to fill about 500 of those absences.

Less than two hours after the district announced Monday’s closure, leaders of West Ada Education Association asked its members to put in for another sick day on Tuesday.

West Ada Education Association President Eric Thies testifies during a Oct. 15 school board meeting. Photo courtesy of West Ada School District.

“We drew the line. If we don’t hold the line, we lose the line,” WAEA President Eric Thies said during a Friday afternoon virtual meeting with teachers that an Idaho Education News reporter attended.

Thies said he was sorry to see school canceled, but he said he feels teachers had to send a message that they don’t feel safe teaching in-person classes.

“I hope that there is a solution, I hope there is something we can do, but I don’t know if I see one at this moment,” Thies said Friday afternoon.

The upcoming school closure is the latest development in a rocky week in West Ada.

  • Tuesday morning: Central District Health moved Ada County schools to red, the highest COIVD-19 exposure and risk category. CDH said it supports some level of in-person learning taking place in the red, for now.
  • Tuesday late night: Ed Klopfenstein resigned as school board chairman following a four-hour discussion of the district’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Klopfenstein elected to retain his status as a trustee.
  • Wednesday night: West Ada Education Association leaders urged members to flood the district with advance requests for sick days on Monday. The teachers’ union said the district needs to move to remote learning operations immediately because it is not safe to hold in-person instruction.
  • Thursday afternoon: West Ada School Board votes 3-1 to move all grade levels to a hybrid learning model beginning next week. Students are split into two different teams, with in-person instruction offered on alternating days.
  • Friday afternoon: West Ada announces school will be canceled for Monday.
  • Friday late afternoon: Thies asks West Ada Education Association members to put in another sick day for Tuesday, filing the request as soon as possible.

West Ada is the state’s largest district based on enrollment, serving almost 40,000 students.

The Boise School District, Idaho’s second largest, plans to bring middle and high school students back to schools Monday, a move OK’d by local health officials even as they announced Ada County is in the highest risk category for COVID-19 spread.

Click here to find out operational plans for all Idaho schools and districts along with county risk categories.

Further reading: Idaho set a pair of grim records on Friday for new coronavirus cases, including a one-day record.

Continue the conversation: Parents, patrons and teachers are sharing reactions to the closure on Idaho Education News’ Facebook page.

Clark Corbin

About Clark Corbin

Reporter Clark Corbin has covered Idaho government and education for more than a decade. He’s followed every legislative session, gavel-to-gavel, since 2011. Clark is a co-host of the Extra Credit podcast with Kevin Richert published on Fridays. You can follow him on Twitter: @clarkcorbin. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

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