After staffing issues, Camden schools open today

April 22, 2008 4:48:28 AM PDT
Camden school authorities won't call it a strike or a sick out, but they closed all schools in the district early today because not enough custodial employees reported to work. Officials say Camden school will be opened Tuesday as scheduled. When explaining why schools closed early today the district points to state law.

Parents say the surprise mid-day closure was unsettling, saying they were told by school staff that custodial and cafeteria workers throughout the Camden School District called out as part of an unofficial, undeclared strike. The workers have been without a contract for more than two years.

Today, without enough trained staff to prepare food or operate building generators, administrators canceled class.

Diana Jones says the school did not call her before her grandchildren were sent home from Woodier Elementary School, without breakfast or an explanation. Jones says, "Next thing I know, 7 kids are coming home saying that (school administrators) said, 'Tell your parents that we're sorry, but the school is closed.' ? Just sent them back, didn't call. Nothing."

A district spokesperson tells Action News the schools did try to reach parents, and that state law mandates each school have a black seal licensed person present to operate. And when black seal licensed custodians called out, the district's 33 schools could not stay open, and its nearly 15,000 students were sent home at 12:45.

It was a challenging ordeal for parents.

Action News was unable to reach anyone from the Custodial and Cafeteria Workers Union to confirm the presumed sick-out. District officials declined to talk on camera about the situation, but said they expect the custodians to show up for work tomorrow. If they don't, schools will remain open.