Head of DC teachers’ union explains action to call out sick Monday

Backpack of school child with face mask and sanitizer. Student safety after coronavirus pandemic. Virus and disease prevention for kids. Back to school and kindergarten after covid-19 outbreak.(Getty Images/iStockphoto/FamVeld)
Amid stalled negotiations between teachers and D.C. Public Schools about how to return students to in-person learning, the local teachers’ union urged educators to call out sick Monday and take a mental health day.

It wasn’t clear how many teachers participated, though some principals reportedly had to cancel classes because of teacher shortages.

The protest came just as the school system announced it would not reopen elementary school classrooms for most students next week as planned, citing the need to readjust staffing.

In a statement Monday, schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said, “We have heard feedback from many in our community about” the school system’s reopening plan, “and we will use this moment to adjust our timeline and staffing plans for reopening.”

The plan, announced last month, allowed for up to 75% of elementary school students eventually returning to classrooms starting Nov. 9.

Washington Teachers’ Union President Elizabeth Davis told WTOP that she was pleased the more extensive Nov. 9 plan had been canceled.

“It’s not safe to reopen our schools at this time,” Davis said. “DCPS has failed to provide the detailed information that we need on how they’re fixing the schools and making them safe.”

“It’s not enough just to have the mayor and chancellor say, ‘Trust us.'”

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Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Earlier, Davis said she urged teachers to take the day off if they were feeling anxious and uncertain about potentially returning to classrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Some of them actually have become ill as a result of that because stress can make you sick,” Davis said. “Questions and details that parents and teachers are asking for have still not been provided.”

Davis insisted that teachers who took the day off were not completely off the clock because they remained in contact with students and helped them with assignments.

“They certainly did not neglect conversations and engaging with their students,” Davis said. “We encouraged them to do that, and they did.”

Ferebee said the school system was “still taking steps to reopen and will begin by opening CARE classrooms as soon as staffing plans are confirmed.”

CARE classrooms allow students to take virtual classes from a DCPS classroom attended by a monitor or other school employee.

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Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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