JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County students returned to their school buildings Thursday for the first time since mid-March, but not all their teachers were there to greet them.
According to the district, 80 teachers called in sick Thursday, 67 of whom reported they were ill, 12 reported they had an ill family member and one reported a death in the family.
The 80 absences followed an unofficial demonstration in protest of the district’s brick-and-mortar reopening.
“Anyone else not feeling well? I have a tummy ache and might have to call in sick tomorrow,” a DCPS teacher wrote in a Facebook group Wednesday afternoon.
The private group is comprised of more than 2,600 educators, staff and stakeholders of the Duval County Public Schools district. Some of the group’s membership staged what one teacher branded a “sick out.”
“I’m sick to my stomach,” Andrew Jackson High School teacher Bradley Fisher said. “I’m morally sick. I’m sick with panic and fear for my students and my colleagues and their lives.”
Fisher called in sick Thursday but is still teaching his scheduled classes through virtual means.
“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,” Fisher said. “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.”
Though the district was 80 teachers down due to reported illnesses, it had to draft 295 substitute teachers to cover classes Thursday. That number doesn’t count the 91 substitutes working jobs other than teacher, the district said.