EBR cancels school because of teacher absences

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The East Baton Rouge Parish Public School System has canceled school for students Wednesday after a large number of employees said they would be absent to attend a political rally at the Louisiana State Capitol.

Hearings are set Wednesday and Thursday at the Capitol on bills that would expand a state-financed private school tuition program and make changes to teacher tenure.

"We want to give our parents and teachers enough time to make alternative arrangements," said Interim School Superintendent Carlos Sam. "That is why we are making this decision early."

Although classes are canceled, the district said all district employees, except for cafeteria workers and bus drivers, are expected to report to work as normal for what the district has declared to be a "professional development work day."

The cancellation came with less than 24 hours notice for parents. The district said it expects classes to resume Thursday.

School officials said they did not cancel classes so teachers can attend the rally, but because of the high number of teacher absences expected Wednesday. Officials reported as of 11 a.m., 942 teachers out of 3,000 had called in to say they would be absent.

The rally by some educators is designed to show their opposition to certain changes in public education that Gov. Bobby Jindal has put before lawmakers to consider in the new legislative session.

School Board Vice President Tarvald Smith said he agrees with the decision.

"I wish we didn't have to do it but I understand a teacher's right to voice their concerns about the governor's education proposal because it directly affects them and their jobs," Smith said.

Smith said Jindal's plan would possibly affect the tenure of some teachers.

"And, possibly their employment to the extent that some of the governor's plan has to do with replacing some teachers based on their evaluation system," Smith added.

Parochial schools in the parish which use public school busses to transport their students first received notice of the cancellation Tuesday morning.

"We are so disappointed that the East Baton Rouge Parish school district has chosen to withhold service from our students and families tomorrow so that their employees can engage in political protesting at the Capitol," said Catholic Diocese spokeswoman Mary Beth Chevalier.   Parochial schools in the parish will be open, Chavalier said.

Vermillion Parish schools also canceled classes for Wednesday.

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