Teachers in the Grosse Pointe Public School district called out sick Wednesday after a well-liked teacher resigned following a contentious school board meeting. They said the board's new COVID-19 policy is putting the staff and students at risk.
Grosse Pointe North teacher Sean McCarroll resigned at Monday's school board meeting when the board voted to relax COVID protocols for in-person learning that he and other teachers say put more people at risk.
"We're not angry at the situation - we can't control COVID - we're angry at you. We're angry at you and angry is a nice way of putting it," he told the board on Monday. "You don't respect us - if you respected us you'd listen to us. You don't appreciate us - if you did you wouldn't make our jobs literally impossible to do."
The objection didn't end at the meeting and, on Wednesday, there were so many teachers out sick at Grosse Pointe North, even superintendent Gary Niehaus had to cover classes.
"We had a one-day event in our district. We are covering for 116 teachers today, our normal average is 61," Niehaus said.
That's 116 across the district but the majority were from GPN, where some students just left on Wednesday.
"What affects teachers also affects us - we love our teachers we know they'll do that right thing. A lot of them are role models to us," one student told FOX 2.
The teachers asked for a pause in full face-to-face learning and wanted to switch to a hybrid model for two weeks because of the surge in COVID cases in April. Instead, the board voted to stick with the in-person learning option and relax protocols.
The quarantine time for students exposed has been dropped from 14 to 10 days and social distancing of three feet instead of six.
Niehaus said this was a one-day event but acknowledged he has not spoken to the teachers involved or the union. Union President Christopher Pratt said this was not a union-sponsored activity.
He also told FOX 2 that the administration promised teachers they would adhere to the guidance from the Wayne County Health Department. He said Monday's resolution goes against that guidance.
"We've gotta protect kids, we've gotta protect our colleagues," Pratt said. "We don't say this lightly. We say it out of safety and that's number one for us: for our students."
A group of teachers, independent from the union, issued a statement on what they're calling a mental health day saying in part:
"The focus of this day has been to mentally recharge, refocus, and prepare for the recent decision by the board of education to go against federal, state, and local recommendations regarding contact tracing and quarantine procedures. This decision was made despite the objections of the district’s teachers, building administrators, and support staff. We are disappointed in the board’s lack of support for our teachers, who have worked tirelessly throughout the school year to accommodate the board’s ever-changing minds."
You can read the entire statement below: