Eighth grade Ty’Jay Saxon left Mount Pleasant Middle School at 11:30 a.m. Friday, arriving in her mother’s car, which was quickly filling up with her siblings and cousins.
Before they left, the Saxons shouted, “We need more teachers.”
Karen Corona, the district’s director of communications and public information, said the school unexpectedly closed at the half-day mark on Friday, when 17 teachers did not turn up for work and there was no option to cover teachers, leading to staff shortages. Was born
“The principal knew yesterday that the seven of them would not be there today” [personal time requested in advance] And scrambled to find coverage for those classes last night,” she said in an email.
But then overnight and that morning 10 more teachers were called. The entire sector depends on the same service when it needs substitute teachers, Corona said.
“This is a common issue for many districts,” she said.
He said staff shortages are occurring in other schools, but not to the level of early dismissals.
Corona said that she knows that a teacher has been hurt.
“We need staff who have any symptoms of illness – runny nose, cough, headache, upset stomach … anything – to not come to school,” she said. “You can’t predict when you’re not feeling well. So, maybe some of them woke up and weren’t feeling well. I’m not exactly sure why they called but I’m told there’s no such sign Not that these absences are related to COVID.”
The absence was not on purpose either, said Juliette Benacquisto, president of the Schenectady Federation of Teachers – the union representing teachers in the district.
“There was no concerted effort by the teachers to create problems for the school or the district,” she said. “I’m sure absenteeism is a response to the COVID protocol that teachers and schools have to follow now.”
The school has 94 staff and faculty and 806 students, Corona said.
Whatever the reason for the absence, the eighth grade Saxons were not happy to leave.
“I get upset when I don’t do my job,” said Saxon, who aspired to be a lawyer.
While the students waited for the dismissals, Corona said, the students were divided and taken to different classrooms and areas such as the gym where they attended “mindfulness lessons and circles”.
But, Saxon said that instead of learning anything while they were in school, the eighth graders were taken to a project room and watched a movie.
Saxon mother Deandra Cook said the situation was worrying.
“They missed out on learning enough,” she said.
Cook, the manager of Family Dollar on Crane Street, had to leave work to pick up his two children and then the children of family members because he could not leave his job.
She said she didn’t understand why it was just the school with this issue and why the district couldn’t find another way to make it work so the kids could stay in school.
Julia Melvin said early dismissal kind of complicates things for her Friday morning. She does childcare for other people and because of the rain she didn’t want to bring the two kids she was watching outside. Thankfully, she said her roommate was able to see them when she picked up her granddaughter, who is in seventh grade.
“On a normal day it would have been complicated, but I was off today,” said Randy Jones, who works at a Cisco warehouse, as he waited for his daughter.
He said it would not be easy to quit his job to bring up his daughter in class VIII.
Harish Hera had no problem in picking up his daughter, who is in seventh standard, as she is self-employed.
He said that the message of early dismissal from the district came at 8:37 am.
“I dropped them and then the message came,” he said. “If I had known, I would have kept him at home.”
The 21st century after-school program was also cancelled, Corona said.
However, the Boys and Girls Club opened at 11:30 am for students who were members.
The students also got grab-and-go lunches, he said.
Corona said that families have to remember to be prepared for unexpected updates and changes.
“While we don’t want to dismiss early, this is one of those things – given the variables of a pandemic and the situation at hand – what we are advising could be,” she said.
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Categories: News, Schenectady County