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Day after 'sick out' over COVID concerns, EBR educators take message directly to school leaders

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BATON ROUGE - A handful of members of the East Baton Rouge Parish Association of Educators showed up at Thursday's Committee of the Whole meeting to take their demands directly to the district after staying home from work Wednesday to protest classroom COVID protocols.

"I feel like our concerns have kind of been pushed under the rug and kind of ignored," Paige Colwell, a member of EBRPAE, said. "They need to know that we're still here, we're still concerned, and we're not going to stop until they listen."

Earlier this week, the association demanded the district move entirely to virtual learning during the ongoing Omicron surge, extend COVID-19 leave to 10 days, and allow telework for all departments.

Even with district leaders reaffirming the entire school system will not move remote, union leaders call Wednesday's move a success.

"It is bringing the attention to the problems within the district, as COVID rises in the community," Valencea Johnson, president of EBRPAE, said.

In an interview with WBRZ Tuesday, Narcisse said he would only move schools to remote learning on a campus-by-campus basis.

"The only way that I would change to remote learning, at this point, for a particular school, is if the staff is impacted," Narcisse said.

Following Thursday's meeting and EBRPAE's attendance, Narcisse released the following statement to WBRZ:

“We have continued to keep the lines of communication open between our associations representing professional educators and the executive staff to hear the concerns of our staff. We have been able to have very productive conversations with some of these same representatives.”

 “We know that our children thrive with in-person instruction where both their educational, social and emotional needs are addressed. We do not take the decision to transition to remote learning lightly, as we know so many of our families depend on our schools for more than just an education. We have heavily focused our efforts on mitigating the spread of Covid-19 in our schools by providing a safe classroom environment for students and staff.”

Johnson says no future 'sick out' days are planned, but educators say the conversation ignited by Wednesday's action continues.

"We keep trying to get support from our parents, get support from our educators," Colwell said. "We just keep pushing, keep emailing, keep telling people what's going on in the schools, so that they understand why it is that we're pushing for this and why we're concerned."

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