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More teacher absences cause Henderson elementary school to cancel classes

Updated September 13, 2023 - 4:04 pm

Classes were canceled Wednesday at Newton Elementary School in Henderson because of teacher absences.

The decision was made just hours before a judge issued a preliminary injunction to halt “rolling sickouts” and a day after the Clark County School District declared an impasse in teacher contract negotiations.

Since Sept. 1, eight schools have each closed for one day because of staffing shortages.

A text message from Newton to parents read: “There are an unexpected number of staff/teachers absent from school today.”

The decision to close Newton was made once callouts reached 71 percent, the district said via an email to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The city of Henderson offered a “Battle Born Kids” drop-in session Wednesday at Black Mountain Recreation Center, which is next door to the school.

The fee for families was $27, which included lunch and snacks. Financial assistance was available.

Kathryn Bell, whose 5-year-old son Kharem started last month in kindergarten at Newton, said she heard classes were canceled almost 90 minutes before the scheduled 9 a.m. start time Wednesday.

Newton notified her three ways — via a message on the school’s app, by an automated voicemail and by email, Bell said.

The school also told her that parents needing supervised daycare could drop their children off at the Battle Born Kids program.

Bell, a former college teacher, said she once had to take part in contract negotiations and so is sympathetic to the teachers seeking higher pay.

She said she wasn’t concerned about the stoppage of instruction because she works from home and doesn’t believe it would last longer than a day or two.

“I don’t think it’s hugely disruptive, but it allows them to take a stand,” she said. “I might be the exception compared to other parents.”

“If you don’t make some noise they really don’t understand how valuable they are,” she said. “I know there are a lot of teachers who can’t afford to live on the salary.”

Bell said she has closely followed the negotiations between the union and district, and believes that the district “should settle with the teachers.”

What concerns her most, she said, is the school district’s use of substitute teachers who are not credentialed but end up teaching for long periods, or she fears, even the entire school year.

The fact that the district has many openings for teaching positions means it is not competing with in-state and out-of-state districts to attract educators, she said.

As for her son, she said his reaction was “Yay! No school!”

Previous school closures

On Tuesday, classes were canceled at Southwest Career and Technical Academy, Rogich Middle School in Summerlin, Woolley Elementary School in the north valley and Twitchell Elementary School in Green Valley.

Earlier this week, the school district filed court papers seeking to stop “rolling sickouts” that have closed schools and disrupted operations at a couple others this month.

Teachers union officials have said multiple times over the last week that the staffing situations aren’t part of union actions.

In addition to the four schools closed Tuesday, Gibson, Sewell and Givens elementary schools also were affected. Anywhere from 65 to 87 percent of employees at those three schools called in sick.

Two other schools — Monaco Middle School and Southeast Career Technical Academy — experienced a large number of teacher absences but remained open and moved some students to large areas on campus to ensure supervision.

Contact Jeff Burbank at jburbank@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0382. Follow @JeffBurbank2 on X. Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on X.

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