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AFT confirms BCS teachers, staff were planning walkout amid rising COVID cases

Published: Jan. 24, 2022 at 9:42 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on our school systems.

Birmingham City Schools made the tough decision to go to remote learning Monday and Tuesday in anticipation of staffing shortages.

WBRC received an anonymous tip Sunday night saying teachers and staff were planning a walkout Monday in response to the growing number of COVID cases among students, teachers, and staff.

The Birmingham American Federation of Teachers confirmed that was the plan.

But after a meeting with school leaders, the district decided to go to remote learning.

In a statement, a spokesperson for BCS said in part, “It was necessary to transition to remote learning on Monday and Tuesday of this week because of anticipated staff shortages.”

The statement continues saying, “The trends we realized in potential absences today would have made it difficult to maintain operations in a majority of our schools.”

But President of the Birmingham AFT, Richard Franklin, said an emergency meeting held virtually Sunday night revealed there were already significant teacher and staff absences prior to Monday.

So much so, that many schools were struggling to continue teaching and learning.

He said many classrooms were overcrowded to compensate for staffing shortages.

Franklins said teachers and other staff members were planning to walkout because they felt the conditions weren’t safe.

“We were already in a sickout because a lot…some of the schools were not even functioning. We had situations where one particular school, on one hall, they had five staff members to start out. By Thursday, we were down to two and it was something like 50 r 60 kids they had to put in the gym, and then they were missing students, and it was just happening so fast that we didn’t know what to do,” Franklin explained.

Franklin said he’s not pointing fingers at the district saying this virus is a moving target and many district leaders and school administrators were out sick themselves and it’s possible they didn’t know the extent of the situation at the schools until that meeting Sunday night.

Franklin said he believes the district needs longer than two days to recover and says it’s possible that a sickout could happen Wednesday unless the district comes up with a plan before then.

The school system announced it will host two meetings on Wednesday for school employees and parents to ask questions about COVID-19.

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