BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Teachers across East Baton Rouge Parish called out Jan. 12. This was a part of the ‘sick out’ day organized by a teachers’ union to help make their voices heard.

The East Baton Rouge Parish School System said 760 teachers were absent Wednesday, but the district said this is average because of the recent COVID-19 and flu surge. 

The school district said in a statement:

The East Baton Rouge Parish School System reported 760 school-based absences Wednesday, Jan. 12. These absences were marked in Frontline and reflect a combination of COVID and non-COVID-related absences. After conducting a seven-day average analysis, EBRPSS averages 762.4 absences per day which can be attributed to the current COVID and seasonal flu surge. 

However, Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) union leaders said their efforts did not go unnoticed. 

“We have gotten reports from schools letting us know that they, that they had to send people from the district, our whole schedule changed today.” EBR Parish Association of Educators (EBRPAE) President Valencea Johnson said. “We even got reports from parents that their kids were calling to pick them up.”

“Even though teachers are very resilient, at some point, we have a breaking point,” said Johnson.

She said teachers have reached that point, and are now trying to force the school district to return to virtual learning.

“We are not trying to fight against the administration or the administration. We just want to do what’s best for kids,” she explained.

“Needs have gone on deaf ears, we feel that there was something we needed to do to call attention to what’s actually going on,” Rhonda Matthews, teacher.

Matthews said this current surge is too much for students and teachers to handle in person.

“Remote would allow that, that would cut down on absences and the lack of continuity in instruction,” stated Matthews.

“We’ve done it before. We might not have done it right before but now we have the experience to make sure it’s the best for kids,” added Johnson.

A separate teachers union announced they were not doing the sick out, which could have impacted the numbers.

“I definitely think there is power in numbers and if we collectively can use our teacher voice, our educator’s voice,” then we could move moountains.

Johnson said this isn’t the end of their efforts. They are looking to continue to work to make their voices heard.

EBR Schools Superintendent Sito Narcisse said in a statement:

“We are committed to providing a high-quality education for our students while continuing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our schools. We have taken proactive measures throughout the course of the pandemic to mitigate the spread through continued masking; weekly mandatory staff testing; deep cleaning and sanitation; vaccine and booster clinics. We have continued to keep the lines of communication open to all of our organization educator unions and associations and have been able to hear and address the concerns of those willing to speak with myself and executive staff.”