Baraboo joined the ranks of several Madison-area school districts that have closed due to teacher absences in the wake of Gov. Scott Walker's announced budget repair bill.
On Thursday night, Baraboo School District Administrator Crystal Ritzenthaler said about 120 teachers called in sick for Friday's school day, comprising more than 50 percent of the district's 230 teachers. As a result, the district issued a statement Thursday night cancelling classes.
"We are not able to safely supervise students and provide adequate instruction with the limited staff available," Ritzenthaler stated.
Despite the cancellation of classes, those teachers who did not call in sick are expected to report for work as usual, the announcement states.
Because they are using earned sick leave, the teachers will not be subject to any kind of disciplinary action.
"They are using the leave they're entitled to per the contract," Ritzenthaler said.
In an e-mail message released about 5:45 p.m., Ritzenthaler said the Kids Stop program at East Elementary School will be open and Baraboo's Boys & Girls club will open at 7:30 a.m. to provide places for students to go.
The Wisconsin Dells School District also has canceled classes Friday and scheduled a make-up day Feb. 25, according to the district website.
At least 15 Wisconsin school districts canceled classes Thursday - including Sauk Prairie and Lodi - as thousands of teachers gathered at the State Capitol in Madison to protest Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill. Among its many provisions are restrictions on teachers' rights to collectively bargain anything other than wages and limits on wage increases.
Depending on factors such as future school closings for snow days, Ritzenthaler said Baraboo schools will have to determine later whether an additional day of instruction must be tacked onto the school year.
"It's a very difficult situation and we're trying to deal with it in the very best way that we can right now," she said. "I do understand the concerns of the taxpayers and the parents, because this is a disruption in our student learning."
Baraboo Education Association President Barry Flesch could not be reached for comment Thursday.
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Early Thursday morning students at Baraboo High School showed their support for the teachers' struggle with Walker and the Legislature.
A crowd that eventually grew to more than 60 cheered every time it saw a teacher walk in from the parking lot or drive by in a car.
"We're here to celebrate our teachers being here today and all they're going to sacrifice if this bill gets passed," said junior Keith Whiting. "We're here to just support them and so they know we care."
As the students cheered, BHS social studies teacher Steve Argo was leaving the school. Argo said he chose to take a personal day to join the throngs of state workers in Madison and voice his opposition to Walker's proposed budget repair bill at the State Capitol.
"The personal days are for personal reasons," he said. "Some people use them to go hunting, other people take them for funerals, other people take them for legal situations."
Among the students, juniors Isabella Artripe and Danielle Anderson wore homemade political T-shirts with the slogan "Kill the Bill."
"We appreciate our teachers and all the workers around the state," Artripe said. "We think they do a great job, help a lot of people out."
"They do a wonderful job," Anderson said.
Principal Bill Loss also received cheers as he walked into the building. He noted students missed classes Wednesday to go a rally on the courthouse square, so he approved of the alternative steps they took Thursday.
"I think it shows some initiative on their part to try and recognize teachers," he said. "This is certainly one way they can do that in a more positive way that doesn't disrupt the classroom,"
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