Update: Teacher Sickouts at Jefferson, Golden High Schools, Wheat Ridge School Monitored

Update: Moments ago, we spoke with Jefferson County School District spokesperson Lynn Setzer about apparent teacher sickouts taking place in Jeffco today. She confirmed that classes have been canceled at Golden and Jefferson high schools today due to a high number of teacher absences and adds that officials are currently monitoring the situation at Wheat Ridge 5-8 -- although, at this writing, classes at the latter (the equivalent of a middle school) are still expected to take place as scheduled. More information and our original post below.

See also: Jeffco Student Walkouts: More Schools Joining Protest of Patriotically Slanted History Plan

According to Setzer, 81 percent of teachers at Golden High called in sick, most after 8 p.m. last night. Regarding Jefferson High, 70 percent called in sick. She quotes from an e-mail sent at 5:44 a.m. this morning noting that eleven Jefferson High instructors had made such a call within the previous hour.

Setzer declined to speculate about whether the absences represented a coordinated protest against the Jefferson County School Board or if disciplinary action was being contemplated for these teachers or those who called in sick at Conifer and Standley Lake high schools on September 19. "You'd have to ask the individual teachers" why they'd made the call, she maintains, "but I can say we'd always prefer that kids be in school learning."

Continue for our previous coverage.

Original post, 5:25 a.m.: If you thought teacher-and-student protests against the Jefferson County School Board had just about run their course, a new development this morning suggests otherwise. Golden High School is closed today as a result of most teachers calling in sick, just as was the case at Standley Lake and Conifer high schools on September 19 -- and at this writing, reports suggest classes at Jefferson High School in Edgewater have been canceled for the same reason. Here's the latest.

The notice on the Jefferson County School District website this morning is simple. It reads:
Golden High School is closed today for students, Monday, Sept. 29, because of a high number of teacher absences. Remaining staff should report to work. After school activities will go on as planned.
The phrase "high number of teacher absences" certainly seems to be accurate. According to the Denver Post, 81 percent of Golden instructors said they'd be prevented from teaching today due to illness, with most of them passing along word after 8 p.m. last night.

Given the unlikelihood of Ebola sweeping the staff, the absences are most likely a coordinated effort to express displeasure with the Jefferson County School Board, which has been under fire on two fronts. One involves a new teacher-pay package shorthanded by 7News like so:

• Increasing the minimum pay for a Jeffco teacher to $38,000.

• A teacher with an ineffective rating or a partially effective rating with a non-probationary contract won't get a raise.

• There will be pay increases for all teachers rated effective or highly effective during the 2013-14 school year.

• A teacher with an effective rating will get a raise of 2.43 percent.

• A teacher with a highly effective rating will get almost double -- a 4.25 percent raise.
The other pertains to a proposal for a committee to consider changes to the history curriculum that would emphasize patriotism and downplay civil disorder.

While the history committee has yet to win approval by the board, the concept behind it has drawn passionate protest from a great number of Jeffco students, with walkouts and demonstrations at several schools last week. In addition, Twitter users across the area have boosted the hashtag #JeffcoSchoolBoardHistory to trending status.

As for teachers, they're extremely unhappy with the payment plan -- although one instructor of our acquaintance informs us that the package is more of a last straw than the primary factor in their frustration with the board, which took a hard right turn following last November's elections.

Golden High School was deeply involved in last week's protests. As noted by CBS4, about 300 students at the school walked out on Tuesday, September 23, with around 200 of them heading to the district's offices, which happen to be located in Golden.

Meanwhile, the proposed history curriculum changes could become an issue in the upcoming gubernatorial race between Democrat office-holder John Hickenlooper and Republican challenger Bob Beauprez. At a debate Friday, the Durango Herald reports that Beauprez backed board members: "An elected school board not only has the right to speak up about curriculum and what they think are the wisest choices...but they have an obligation to do that," he said. Hickenlooper, for his part, was more critical, arguing that "you want your kids to learn about Dr. Martin Luther King, but you also want them to learn about the Boston Tea Party."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
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