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20% of San Francisco educators absent as district struggles to supervise classrooms

Nearly 900 San Francisco teachers and aides were not in their classrooms Thursday, a significant increase in absences from the previous day, as county officials scrambled to make sure enough eligible adults could fill them.

A group of teachers called for sick leave Thursday, arguing that the county was not protecting them adequately during the omicron surge, but it was not clear how many were involved in the disease and how many were actually sick or caring for sick family members.

The number of assistants and absent teachers represents about 20% of the school district’s teachers.

The absences included 616 teachers, up from 414 on Wednesday, with only enough replacements to cover 180 of their classes. Central office staff with teaching credentials covered many of the remaining classrooms, with teachers also stepping in during their spare periods to ensure there was a qualified adult in each room.

“Schools continue to make sure all students are taken care of,” said district spokeswoman Laura Dudnick.

However, at Mission High School, sophomore DeMarcus Jackson went to his first class on Thursday morning only to find a teacher. School officials simply told him that there weren’t enough teachers for the day and he could either get permission from his adoptive parents to go home or sit with the other students in a supervised, but not educational, environment.

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he went home.

This was his third day at school after he secured a place with his foster family in San Francisco during the holidays.

“I was looking forward to going to a new school and a new environment,” he said, adding that he liked Mission High a lot and was excited about the school. “It’s just frustrating, I think.”

County officials have been scrambling to cover classes since school reopened after the winter break due to an ongoing shortage of alternatives.

The disease appears to be exacerbated by the absence of a highly contagious and less severe omicron variant.

Those supporting the strike said they want to raise awareness of health and safety demands for teachers and their union, including ordering N95 or KN95 masks, additional testing, and extending the policy to provide paid sick days to those who contract COVID-19.

“No matter how many patients are sick, either physically or mentally, it is the fault of the district,” Mission High School teacher Gregory McGarry, a pathological disability organiser, said Wednesday. “If we now act collectively and decisively as workers to do what’s right for our children, the district and the city can put their money where their mouths are and do what it takes to keep our schools safe and open, and that’s all I want.”

The illness coincided with a scheduled bargaining session between the teachers’ union and the district over health and safety protocols. However, district officials noted that approved employees of the Department of Labor Relations were among those whose teacher absences were filled this week.

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