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Some Arizona schools cancel classes after teachers take part in ‘sickout’

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Schools in an Arizona school district had to cancel classes for this coming Monday after teachers staged a “sickout” to protest what they said were unsafe teaching conditions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Gregory Wyman, superintendent of the J.O. Combs Unified School District, wrote in a letter to families published Friday that the district had received “an overwhelming response from staff indicating that they do not feel safe returning to classrooms with students” as well as “a high volume of staff absences for Monday citing health and safety concerns.” 

“Due to these insufficient staffing levels, schools will not be able to re-open on Monday as planned. This means that all classes, including virtual learning, will be canceled. At this time, we do not know the duration of these staff absences, and cannot yet confirm when in-person instruction may resume,” he said.

The letter comes after teachers called out sick to protest the district’s decision to hold in-person classes during the pandemic. 

The nation is currently grappling with a debate over if and how to reopen schools this fall in light of health concerns that students can contract the coronavirus and then bring it home with them to their families.

Arizona has surfaced as a chief battleground in the debate, with hundreds of parents and students demonstrating in Phoenix this past Monday for the return of in-person instruction. 

However, other teachers and parents across the country have warned against what they say are hasty returns that don’t adequately implement proper protections against COVID-19.

“It was great to see J.O. Combs school district came together and used their collective power,” Kelley Fisher, a Phoenix kindergarten teacher who has led protests, told Reuters. “I’d love to see a nationwide sick out.”

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