OCPS faculty and staff called out sick in large numbers on the first day of school after winter break, according to OCPS Superintendent Barbara Jenkins.
Jenkins, who spoke during Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings' scheduled coronavirus briefing, noted that 700 teachers called out on the first day back. The wave of absenteeism coincides with an alarming spike in coronavirus cases among students and faculty in the district. That number has fallen slightly, but is still many times higher than before the break.
Jenkins said that the call-in amounted to around 5% of the district's teachers and well exceeded the typical number of call-ins on the first day back from break. In addition to the 700 teachers, nearly 100 bus drivers called in sick on the first day of schools reopening. That amounted to nearly 14% of the drivers employed by the district, which Jenkins said will lead to delays.
“I would encourage parents to have alternative plans,” Jenkins said. “We will get to students, it’s just in some instances that driver has to make one run to the school and then make a second run to go pick up other students, so it’s going to be delayed.”
To combat the surge, Jenkins instituted a mask mandate among OCPS employees. State law prohibits the district from mandating that students wear masks.
"We believe this will help preserve our workforce and keep our schools open," Jenkins said.
Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly newsletters, and consider supporting this free publication. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you Central Florida news, and every little bit helps.