The East Baton Rouge Parish school system, Baker and a charter school group in Baton Rouge announced Tuesday they are canceling classes Wednesday after a higher than normal number of teachers reported they would be absent that day.
Officials with two teachers’ unions are expecting many teachers to go to the State Capitol this week to attend debates over Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposals to reshape public education, including changes in teacher tenure and the expansion of private school vouchers.
“When making decisions about school closures, we always consider the safety and well-being of our students,” said Interim East Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Carlos Sam in a news release. “We also want to give our parents and students enough time to make alternative arrangements. That is why we are making this decision early.”
Chris Trahan, spokesman for East Baton Rouge Parish schools, said late Monday the school system thought it could handle the absences, but by mid morning Tuesday, more than 1,000 of the system’s 3,268 teachers said they were planning to take leave Wednesday, which is more than double the number of substitute teachers the school system has available.
Baker is also canceling classes Wednesday for similar reasons, according to that school’s secretary to the superintendent.
Advance Baton Rouge also announced Tuesday afternoon that all five of its charter schools will be closed for students Wednesday due to the unusually high number of teacher absences reported. Those schools include Dalton and Lanier elementary schools, Glen Oaks and Prescott middle schools, which are all in Baton Rouge; and Pointe Coupee Central in Morganza. Classes are set to resume Thursday.
Similarly, Crestworth Learning Academy, a charter school in Baton Rouge, was planning to have classes Wednesday but was still trying to determine Tuesday afternoon whether it would have enough teachers to cover for those taking off, said Principal Robert Marks.
At least two other school districts, St. Martin and Vermilion parishes, announced Monday they would be closed Thursday.
Officials with other local school districts said they are planning to stay open all week. Those include Acadia, Ascension, Assumption, East Feliciana, Iberia, Iberville, Lafayette, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. James, St. Landry, St. Mary, Tangipahoa, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana parishes, as well as the Central and Zachary school districts.
Capitol High School, which is operated by the state-run Recovery School District, announced it plans to stay open Wednesday and Thursday. Similarly, Kenilworth Science and Technology School, a charter school that is part of the RSD, plans to stay open all week, according to a school secretary.
Both LSU and Southern lab schools are planning to stay open all week, according to officials with both schools.
The Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge is planning to stay open despite the closure of the public schools. Spokeswoman Mary Beth Chevalier said that about 4,000 children at 16 Catholic schools in the who rely on city-parish school buses to get their children to school will have to find their own transportation and that schools were busy Tuesday notifying them of the change.
Tangipahoa Parish public schools plan to stay open even though “a number” of teachers are taking personal days to attend events in Baton Rouge, said Superintendent Mark Kolwe.
Central Community Superintendent Michael Faulk said he sent an email to all school system employees early Tuesday emphasizing his strong desire that they stay in school teaching.
“Nothing will be decided to the end of May, or early June, so I want my teachers teaching,” Faulk said.
In response to the school closures, BREC announced Tuesday that it will open 15 of its gyms for children 12 years old and older.
Those gyms are: North Street Park, Howell Park, Expressway Park, Kerr Warren Park, Anna T. Jordan Community Park, Maplewood Park, Longfellow Park, Cadillac Street Park, Flannery Road Park, Elvin Drive/Ben Burge Park, Mayfair Park, Tom “Pete” Purvis recreation center at Nairn Drive Park, Forest Community Park, Cedar Ridge Park and Alaska Street Park.
Also, the Capital Area Y is offering full day childcare from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. Wednesday. Children will participate in games, arts and crafts, swimming, sports, and other activities. Each child should bring a water bottle, lunch, and snack. It will cost members $20 and $25 for program participants.
The following branches are participating: A.C. Lewis YMCA, Baranco Clark YMCA, C.B. Pennington Jr. YMCA, Dow Westside YMCA, Paula G. Manship YMCA and Southside YMCA. For more information, call 225-272-9200, ext. 400.