Teacher absence total back to normal; Little Rock district moves past one-day spike

FILE — Little Rock School District headquarters are shown in this 2019 file photo.
FILE — Little Rock School District headquarters are shown in this 2019 file photo.

A total of 90 Little Rock School District teachers were absent Tuesday, a day after four times that number called in sick.

On Monday, 378 teachers called in sick, causing the district to call in substitutes from its WillSub System vendor and the Arkansas Department of Education, as well as pull in district employees from other job assignments to cover classrooms.

The Little Rock district has about 1,800 teachers. A typical number of teacher absences in February is about 95 a day, said Jordan Eason, the district's employee relations specialist.

"Teacher attendance has improved today and is back to normal," Eason said Tuesday afternoon.

The high number of absences Monday came not only during cold and flu season, but also at a time when the state-controlled Little Rock district and the state are at odds with the Little Rock Education Association employee union and some community members over recent state Board of Education decisions.

Neither the association nor the district and state officials called the high number of teacher absences a job action by the association members against the district. Such a designation could result in a higher pay rate for substitute teachers.

In the event of a work stoppage or strike, the district is authorized to pay substitute teachers $180 a day beginning the second day of the job action. That is close to the daily pay rate for a beginning teacher with a bachelor's degree, and contrasts with the standard $80 a day paid to a substitute who is a certified teacher.

Some district teachers and other employees conducted a one-day strike Nov. 14.

Metro on 03/04/2020

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