BR.schooldelay.072320 HS 390.JPG

Educator Emma Giles, left, and her daughter, Zoe Giles, join other teachers and their supporters as they gather outside the East Baton Rouge School Board offices in support of the school system going virtual amid the coronavirus pandemic, Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La.

Five Baton Rouge public schools will close Monday due to too many staff members planning to take the day off, but the rest of the East Baton Rouge Parish school system plans to continue to have school that day.

School officials originally announced a sixth school closure, but Forest Heights Elementary School was taken off the list after several faculty members who had planned to take off reversed themselves on Sunday.

The closures, announced Sunday afternoon, appear to be the first sign that a local teacher union’s call for employees to take off on Monday is having an effect. The union, the East Baton Rouge Parish Association of Educators, called for the work stoppage after receiving widespread complaints about the cleanliness of school buildings since they began reopening for in-person instruction on Sept. 14.

Here are the five schools closing Monday: Belaire High, Brookstown Middle, Glen Oaks Park Elementary, Park Forest Elementary and Park Forest Middle schools.

“In order to create safe social distancing, adequate staffing must be provided,” said Taylor Gast, a spokeswoman for the parish school system. “The district recognizes this is an inconvenience to our families of these schools, however, we must continue to prioritize the safety of all children."

Gast said the schools closing will later have to make up the lost instructional time; makeup time will be announced in the future.

Anita Augustus, president of the parish chapter of the Association of Educators, said while better than at first, there are still problems with the sanitation in schools. She said many educators share her concerns, but they are also worried about their jobs and are getting calls from their principals pushing them to come to work Monday.

"They are afraid to come to work and they are afraid to take tomorrow off because of the retaliation," Augustus said.

Previous to the announcement of the closure of the schools, the school system had insisted it would have school on Monday, despite the union’s action. On Friday, Gast said about 200 of the school district's 5,700 employees were taking leave on Monday, similar to the number who took off Friday. Over the weekend, the number of expected absences increased to about 280 as of Sunday afternoon, which most schools could handle, but it proved too high at a handful of schools to continue to have classes Monday, Gast said.

The other big union in the parish, the East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers, has opted to not join the Association of Educators in Monday's job action.

Monday is a significant day because it is the first day public elementary schools in Baton Rouge will be offering daily, in-person instruction; they have been offering only twice-a-week instruction since Sept. 14. Middle and high schools are continuing to offer twice-a-week instruction and aren’t scheduled to shift to daily in-person instruction until Oct. 19.


Email Charles Lussier at clussier@theadvocate.com and follow him on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.