By JULIA JACOBO, ABC News
(GLENDALE, Ariz.) — Multiple schools in an Arizona school district have closed Monday due to a massive teacher sickout protesting in-person learning as COVID-19 cases in the state continue to rise.
Up to 600 teachers in the Peoria Unified School District are expected to participate in the sickout, according to the Peoria Education Association.
The teachers planned to call out sick to demonstrate against what the teacher union described as the school board’s decision to “disregard” county COVID-19 statistics “after promising parents and staff those metrics would be followed to keep students and staff members safe and healthy,” the teacher’s union wrote on Facebook.
“Hopefully this sends a message that we need to be heard and hope they install metrics and come up with a plan,” a union spokesperson told ABC Phoenix affiliate KNXV in a statement.
“If not we will have to do it again,” according to a spokesperson for the Peoria Education Association.
Maricopa County, where the city of Peoria is located, is the COVID-19 hot spot in the state of Arizona, with 6,109 new positive cases on Monday and 388,518 overall since the pandemic began, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
In Arizona, 8,995 new cases were reported on Monday, according to the state health organization.
More than 900 emails were sent to the school board to request a special session to reassess the learning plan, but the school district has given no indication that it will do so, according to the teacher’s union.
On Sunday, the school district posted to Facebook that teachers and school staff could sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine starting on Monday.
Five elementary schools and seven high schools in the district are closed due to the teacher absences, according to the school district’s website. Two high schools will remain open.
Other nearby school districts have stayed open despite teachers participating in the sickout. At the Dysart Unified School District, 142 teachers have been reported absent, KNXV reported.
Buses still conducted their normal routes to ensure that no students were left at bus stops, and lunches were offered for curbside pickup during lunch times, according to a letter sent to parents by the school district.
Parents will be notified Monday afternoon whether the closures will continue into Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the school district told ABC News.
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