The Yukon School District has a plan … if teachers decide to walk out of their classrooms on April 2.
Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth told more than 200 people who attended a town hall meeting Tuesday that the district will host graduation ceremonies on May 22 as planned, children will be fed, and officials are even working on ways to help parents with child care concerns.
State teachers say they plan to walk out of their classrooms on April 2 if the state Legislature has not developed legislation that will provide $10,000 pay raises over three years for teachers, as well as raises for support personnel and state employees.
The legislation also must include a continuing funding source.
Simeroth told those attending the meeting that the district’s administration has prepared a plan to make sure seniors graduate when they are supposed to.
“Seniors will graduate on May 22,” Simeroth said.
Depending on the length of any type of walkout, that may mean returning to school after graduation or possibly having extended school days.
“They have to go 1,080 hours,” Simeroth said.
That is a state requirement, although he also pointed out that the state Department of Education has the ability to waive some of those hours, such as in the case with disasters.
He also warned that seniors who are nearing the maximum number of absences should be aware of their situation.
Meanwhile, to relieve concerns that some children may go without food during a walkout, the district plans to provide sacked lunches.
The lunches will be handed out at all of the elementary schools and at the high school, and the district’s new food truck will be set up at a designated location.
Students won’t be allowed to eat in the schools because none of the teachers will be on site. However, parents or students can go to the sites for lunches.
Meals will be available each weekday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
There will not be a charge for the meals.
In addition, school testing may be delayed. Currently, testing is scheduled to begin April 3. SAT testing for juniors is scheduled for April 10.
Simeroth said if the walkout does occur, state-mandated testing will be pushed back. As for SAT testing, there is a second testing date available later in the month, if it is needed.
Another major concern for some parents is child care. Simeroth said he plans to visit with the Yukon Ministerial Alliance about the possibility of helping.
While classes would be cancelled, Simeroth said extracurricular activities would continue — after school hours.
He said competitions would continue as scheduled, as long as the coaches and instructors agree to participate. However, practices would be limited to after 3 p.m.
“We will let the kids compete. We’re going to let those things happen,” he said. “We want to keep them as engaged as much as possible.”
More than 70 percent of Yukon’s teachers who have been polled about participating in the walkout said they support the plan.
The key, he said, is to keep the public on the side of education.
“We want you to stay on our side. We can’t win without you,” Simeroth said.
He also pointed out that all of the area lawmakers have continued to vote in favor of revenue-raising measures. The process is being held up by just a few lawmakers.
Simeroth said there is a possibility that school for the year could end on March 31.
“We could be out of school for the rest of the year. We are prepared for the worst,” he said.
Middle school teacher Ellen Easter said that isn’t likely to happen.
“We care too much about our students to let that happen,” said Easter, who also has children in the district.
“A lot of this is up in the air. We don’t have all of the answers yet. A lot of things can still happen between now and April 2.”
She also pointed out that while pay raises have been the focus of the proposed walkout, there is more involved than just money.
“This is about our kids. Our kids in Oklahoma deserve to be put up front, not be a hindsight. I don’t think it is fair that they are often put on the back burner,” she said.
Meanwhile, high school teacher Barney Moon said this is an historical moment.
“What is right is right, and it’s time to make a change,” he said.
Student Olivia Payne said she supports the teachers, and the threat of a walkout that could extend her senior year is not something that concerns her.
“If we had to come back, it wouldn’t bother me,” Payne said.
Simeroth said everything does remain in the air and likely will until March 31.
“It changes every day,” he said.
The Yukon School Board met in a special session Wednesday to approve a resolution in support of the teachers and a walkout.
The board voted 4-0 to endorse a resolution asking the Legislature to develop a funding source to provide an increase in teacher pay to a competitive salary level with surrounding states.
Board member Jeff Behymer was absent from the meeting.
The resolution approved Wednesday by the school board reads:
Whereas the board of education’s sole mission is the proper education of those students enrolled in the Yukon School District;
Whereas Oklahoma leads the nation in the deepest cuts to public education per student since 2008;
Whereas Oklahoma’s teacher pay is the lowest in the nation;
Whereas the education of our children should be the highest priority of the Legislature and the Governor;
Whereas the lack of funding, lack of an increase in teacher pay, and lack of action by the Legislature has now reached a crisis level in Oklahoma;
Whereas surrounding states are luring Oklahoma teachers to work in their schools with much higher salaries, causing all Oklahoma schools to increasingly resort to the hiring of emergency certified teachers and long-term substitutes, neither of which are in the best interest of the students of the Yukon School District;
Be it hereby resolved that the Yukon Board of Education strongly supports a salary increase for its teachers to a competitive salary level with surrounding states, strongly supports increased funding for all public school districts in Oklahoma, and strongly encourages the Oklahoma Legislature and the Governor to find a dedicated revenue source to fund both.
Yukon has about 600 certified teachers, including 21 teachers who received emergency certification.
Simeroth said it was important for the board to show its support for teachers.
“We wanted make sure that everybody — the public, the school — had a formal declaration from our school board that we are absolutely 100 percent behind them,” he said.