More than a third of the teaching staff was absent from Old Mill High School on Friday, but school officials insisted the absences were not part of an organized sickout.
"We had an unusually high number of absences at the school," said Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Cheryl Wilhoyte. "But we have a number of events going on today.
"The school is holding a drama festival and that accounts for a number of the absences. There's also a statewide mathematics and athletics meeting going on today. Many of our teachers had planned well inadvance to take today off," she added.
However, students said they had heard many teachers say Thursday that they would be calling in sick Friday or taking a business day to protest the furlough days thecounty has asked them to take in the wake of ongoing state budget cuts.
With four of his six classes being taught by substitutes, Scott Clause, a 16-year-old junior, said students were being given "busy work."
Old Mill High School has a staff of 102 teachers, Wilhoyte said. About 40 of those teachers were not in the school last Friday.
Despite the large number of teacher absences, Wilhoyte said the school day went smoothly at Old Mill and that substitute teachers had their classes under control.
However, students reported that the substitutes were not in control of the classes. Many students were wandering the halls between classes and talking about leaving the building during lunch, they said.
Thomas J. Paolino, president of Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County (TAAAC), said he had no knowledge of any planned sickout by Old Mill teachers or teachers at any other schools.
Wilhoyte said there were no other reports of high absences at other schools in the county.