- The Washington Times - Friday, August 21, 2020

Dozens of public school teachers in Jacksonville, Florida, called out sick Thursday on the first day of in-person learning since schools shut down in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic, the district said.

Duval County Public Schools said 80 teachers called out sick Thursday following protests against reopening during the pandemic, WJXT reported.

“Anyone else not feeling well? I have a tummy ache and might have to call in sick tomorrow,” a teacher wrote Wednesday in a private Facebook group comprised of more than 2,600 district educators and staff, WJXT reported.

“I’m sick to my stomach,” said Andrew Jackson High School teacher Bradley Fisher. “I’m morally sick. I’m sick with panic and fear for my students and my colleagues and their lives.”

“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,” Mr. Fisher told WJXT. “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.”

Duval County Superintendent Diana Greene said the district used 295 substitute teachers and 91 substitutes working other jobs for the first day of school.

“That is a wonderful number for us because we’ve been as high as 800 subs on any given day so the fact that we only had 295 on the first day, means that we had a very successful first day,” Ms. Greene said. “Teachers are out for a number of reasons. If they call out sick they are able to express those reasons, and we are here to get them a sub.”

Students who opted for virtual learning ran into their own set of issues Thursday, with about 25% of them being unable to sign into their classes, WJXT reported. The problems were expected to continue Friday, with teachers encouraging students to keep checking back throughout the day.

“I thank teachers, parents and students for their patience because we did have some problems today, particularly, a big problem with our relaunch of Teams, and I don’t want to say big problem because in some schools they worked just fine, but in others we had issues,” Ms. Greene said. “Although it didn’t go as well as we wanted, we know that Microsoft is working very hard to fix the issues. I’ve spoken to them directly today, and I expect the experience to improve very quickly.”

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