Five EBR schools closed Monday as teachers stage walkout

Updated: Oct. 5, 2020 at 5:40 PM CDT
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EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH, La. (WAFB) - East Baton Rouge Parish school officials held a press conference Monday, Oct. 5 after five schools in EBR Parish were closed as teachers staged a walkout.

The teachers say the walkout was because of their concern for the cleanliness of their classrooms.

During the press conference, officials said more than 300 teachers called out Monday. The teachers say cases of COVID-19 are surfacing in the parish and the school district daily, they’re not getting the supplies they need, attendance number for hybrid learning are very low, and teachers cannot guarantee the safety of students in the classroom.

Leaders with the East Baton Rouge Parish Association of Educators say they’ve gotten several calls and emails from teachers who say their classrooms aren’t being cleaned and sanitized properly. The association says the main goal of the day of action is to make sure students can return to the classroom safely.

RELATED: EBR Assoc. of Educators raises concerns over school conditions despite large investment by district

Belaire High, Brookstown Middle, Glen Oaks Park Elementary, Park Forest Elementary, and Park Forest Middle were all closed Monday. The schools will be required to make up the lost time.

“Due to the amount of school-based employees requesting leave tomorrow at specific sites, the district is announcing school closures. In order to create safe social distancing, adequate staffing must be provided. The district recognizes this is an inconvenience to our families of these [five] schools, however, we must continue to prioritize the safety of all children,” officials from the East Baton Rouge Parish School System (EBRPSS) said in a press release.

One of the teachers who called out, Paige Colwell, is an art teacher at McKinley Middle.

“The district promised us that when they made us go back that it would be safe and I do not believe that it is safe,” Colwell said.

Colwell says she has voiced her concerns, but feels as if they have fallen on deaf ears, even going so far as saying some teachers have been “bullied” by administrators for talking about the problems.

“You can tell when they haven’t wiped anything, you can tell when they haven’t swept because it will still be on the floor, trash cans will still be full, they won’t take the trash out, things like that,” she said.

All other district sites were open for normal operations Monday.

EBRPSS issued the following statement Monday evening:

"Today, the district welcomed Prek-5th grade students back to face-to-face learning. The district commends the dedicated school leaders, staff, and district personnel who made this day successful. The school system fully embraces its responsibility for creating safe learning environments for all and realizes the essential nature of the district’s role to educate the hearts and minds of young people. Many children and their families depend upon schools for far more than academic learning. Amid this pandemic, essential public services must be provided, and children need to be educated in safe and healthy buildings. Through vigilance, commitment, cooperation, and compassion, the East Baton Rouge Parish School System will continue to serve staff and students to meet their needs.

As a result of ongoing conversations initiated by district leadership, recent adjustments made to Aramark cleaning protocols are as follows:

  1. The workday of Aramark day staff has been extended to ensure every room is cleaned, sanitized, and disinfected by the night cleaning contractors.
  2. Moving forward, Aramark’s leadership team, along with Front Line Managers, have been assigned schools to visit and visually inspect between the hours of 4:00 and 8:00 pm.
  3. Aramark has committed to a daily meeting with all cleaning company sub-contractors to review deficiencies reported by the day custodians, faculty, and staff with immediate corrective action plans.
  4. Through coordinated communication by Aramark, night cleaning contractor owners have been directed to provide additional supervision and oversight of the daily cleanings.
  5. The district created a facility walkthrough form for administrators to report insufficient facility cleanings to Aramark leadership in a timely manner."

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