No teachers, no school at Warwick Veterans Junior High

Warwick Veterans Junior High School was closed Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, because of what administrators called a teacher "sick out."

Warwick Public Schools canceled classes Wednesday at Veterans Junior High School because of a high rate of teacher absences.

Some parents and students said they had no idea there would be no school until they showed up, only to be turned away by Dr. Philip Thornton, who is the superintendent.

Derrick Capraro, a fifth grader, told NBC 10 News he was disappointed.

“Us kids, we have to learn. And I was kind of excited for my robotics class today,” he said outside the junior high.

Administrators said 59 out of 91 teachers at Vets called out sick, which is about two-thirds of the teaching staff.

Similarly, Pilgrim High School was closed Friday because too many teachers called out.

"The most important aspect of school is having a teacher in front of the students. It's really unfortunate, once again, to have the teachers call out sick today. Clearly, this was a job action just as last Friday was," Thornton said, adding that while he did not speak to the teachers, some doctors' notes have been coming in.

Thornton went on to say there's no debate it was a "sick out" even though the teachers' union won't call it that.

“Any person watching the news, seeing this will know what it is,” he said. “It's a work action. It's a sick out.”

But Darlene Netcoh, who is the Warwick Teachers Union president, insists all the sick teachers aren't protesting.

"It's not a sick out. It's not a job action. People called out sick,” said Netcoh.

At a heated School Committee meeting Tuesday night, the union announced a vote of no confidence in the superintendent and the School Committee chairwoman.

Teachers have been working without a contract since 2015 and said enough is enough.

One of the major disagreements concerns how many sick days teachers should get. Warwick teachers currently get 90 sick days a year.

"You won't find any organization with 90 sick days,” Thornton said.

NBC 10 looked at sick day policies in nearby school districts.

In Cranston, teachers get up to 15 days per year, while there are between 8 and 21 sick days in Providence.

Yet, Netcoh said the 90 days includes other types of “leave,” such as bereavement, short term disability, as well as maternity leave. She said each one of the 90 sick days are needed.

“Children get sick. Elderly parents get sick,” said Netcoh. “All of that comes under that blanket."

Meanwhile, the superintendent said the tactic won't help negotiations and that it's only hurting the children.

The teacher's union and the school board are set to have negotiations next week.

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