SAN TAN VALLEY, AZ — In-person schooling was supposed to begin Monday, August 17, for the J. O. Combs School District, but a move by teachers and staff forced the district to cancel school for the day.
On Friday, a J. O. Combs Spokesperson said 109 teachers and staff requested not to work on Monday.
"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," wrote J. O. Combs Superintendent Dr. Gregory Wyman in a letter to parents on Friday. "At this time, we do not know the duration of these staff absences, and cannot yet confirm when in-person instruction may resume."
A teacher in the district told ABC15 that one of the reasons teachers decided to call out Monday was that they felt unprepared to teach students virtually and in person.
Teachers are expected to simultaneously instruct students in the classroom and those at home via live stream. One teacher believes they were not adequately prepared to cater to both types of learners, since all of the educators' attention has been on executing online learning.
"The issue is that [a] teacher would not be able to tend to the online learners that are on Google," said a teacher in the district. "Even in-class learning must be modified for online. So it's a lose-lose for both types of learners."
That teacher said only one hour of training was given for the live stream equipment.
"Some classes have as many as 36 [on] their roster or more. About half are choosing to stay home, so we really need to service our online learners."
Aside from the feeling of unpreparedness from teachers, many feel unsafe since benchmarks set by the Arizona Department of Health Services have yet to be met by any of the school districts.
"My coworkers do not feel safe. Metrics being met is a big deal. We also want to keep at-risk teachers with online kids."
The district's Governing Board voted against Superintendent Wyman's recommendation to move in-person education to October, and also shot down a motion to forgive a $1,000 penalty for teachers, $2,500 for administrative staff, who decide to break their contract due to COVID-19.
The teachers said teachers in the district hope to come to a resolution with the district to continue online-only teaching until health benchmarks are met.
On Monday, students of Combs High School are also staging a march in support of teachers who did not call out at 10 a.m.
The district says they will monitor the situation and expects to have an update no later than 5:00 p.m. Monday.