Walkout is on: Yukon schools to shut down so teachers can rally

Officials with the Yukon School District announced Friday that classes will be cancelled through next Wednesday.

In a letter that is posted on the school district’s website, Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth said classes will be canceled Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as part of a statewide teacher walkout.

The decision follows the recommendation of the Yukon Professional Educators Association, which met Thursday to consider legislation that was signed earlier in the day by Gov. Mary Fallin. That legislation provides additional funding to school districts, including an average $6,100 raise to teachers.

In the letter, Simeroth states that the removal of a portion of the funding bill “left uncertainty among educators regarding the commitment to continued efforts to appropriately fund education.”

The letter states that while educators are appreciative of the legislation, it is only a first step toward funding education.

“To allow educators to unite at the Capitol, Yukon Public Schools will be closed April 2, 3 and 4. This will provide employees the opportunity to emphasize the need for long-term commitment supporting our students and our state. During the time our teachers are not present in our facilities, the buildings will be closed to the public,” the letter states.

In addition, Simeroth stated that the district will evaluate the situation after Wednesday and will notify the public by 3 p.m. about the district’s plan for Thursday.

Fallin signed the legislation Thursday after state senators voted late Wednesday to approve a package of tax increases to fund pay raises for teachers, support staff and other state workers.

The vote came as officials with the Oklahoma Education Association said teachers across the state would walk out of their classrooms on Monday if a series of demands were not met. Among the demands was a $10,000 pay raise over three years that included a continuing funding source as well as increased per student spending.

The approved legislation includes increases in the amount of tax charged for tobacco products, gasoline and the gross production tax. It also makes changes to the state’s income tax structure.

In all, the legislation is expected to generate more than $474 million annually.

Former Yukon teacher Alicia Priest, who now is president of the OEA, said that while the efforts made by the legislature were good, more work is needed.

“There is still work to do to get this Legislature to invest more in our classrooms. That work will continue Monday when educators descend on the Capitol,” she said in a statement.

The OEA had demanded more than $800 million in new revenue.

Simeroth, said the district supports the teachers’ efforts.

Vicki Bonny, who heads the Yukon Professional Educators’ Association, said she expects all 278 members of the local organization to join others from across the state in the walkout.

“Education budgets have been cut for over a decade. We need the funds to support the schools. This includes teacher pay, support pay, instruction materials and cost of living increases for retired teachers. They have not had an increase in over 10 years,” she said.

She also pointed out that many teachers are barely surviving financially. Many, she said, work multiple jobs to make ends meet.

“We are the lowest paid in the nation,” she said.

Bonny said the association has not decided how long any type of work stoppage will last.

Meanwhile, Simeroth said a proposal to utilize churches to help with child care was unsuccessful.

The Yukon Ministerial Alliance told school officials that while they would like to help, it is not feasible because of the costs involved.

“They don’t have the capacity in their buildings or the personnel that would be needed,” Simeroth said.

The ministerial alliance, will however, help with the distribution of free lunches.

The school district does plan to provide sack lunches at all Pre-K through third-grade elementary schools, at Yukon High School and through the district’s food truck, which will visit two locations —Welcome Home Community, 1112 Life Style Drive, and Neumayer Community, 400 S.  Ranchwood Blvd.

The food truck will be at the Welcome Home Community from 11 to 11:55 a.m., and Neumayer from 12:05 to 1 p.m.

The meals at all locations will be sack lunches, and in most cases, the meals can be taken home. However, at the two food truck locations, the food should be eaten on the site, said Emilie Forte, the district director of food services.

At the school locations, the meals are meant to be taken home. Simeroth said there will not be sufficient personnel to open the school cafeterias.

Forte said any children can come to any of the locations for a free meal.

Most lunches will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

School closure FAQ

Lunch will be provided for free
Sack lunches will be available for pickup only at all PreK-3rd Elementary Schools (Central, Myers, Parkland, Ranchwood, Shedeck, Skyview, Surrey Hills), Yukon High School, and via our mobile delivery to designated areas in our community. Lunch will be available for pick-up between 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each weekday during the walkout. No children are allowed to be left at any school site.

Will days be made up by students?
Yukon is an “hours district” meaning that we are required to provide 1,080 hours of instruction by state law. We will use leftover snow days and extra built-in hours of instruction first and determine the additional instructional time required upon school resuming. The calendar will be adjusted into the summer if needed and start/end times may be adjusted as well.

Concurrent and  CareerTech Classes
Students in concurrent  and careertech classes will be required to attend these classes as normally scheduled. Special bus passes will be issued and transportation will be provided to these students. Routes and pickup times may change.

Athletics, Activities and Events
Competitions that are scheduled or normally held during the school day will go on as normal. No practices will be allowed and no other activities, events or practices can occur until after 3 p.m. on school grounds. Transportation will be provided to events as normal but parents are responsible for getting their children to events at Yukon sites. Special Olympics will still be held, dependent on other school district participation.  Prom is still under review.

Walkout is Teacher Driven…
78 percent of Yukon teachers said they would walkout on April 2nd based on the lack of legislative action. If a walkout occurs, we will close school as we cannot safely and adequately continue educating children without teachers.

How does this affect Testing?
State Testing will most likely be extended by the state department ofeducation depending on when school resumes. National ACT testing will occur as scheduled. SAT testing will be moved to April 24. AP Testing will still be held as scheduled with practice times occuring after 3 p.m. as needed. Eighth-graders needing tests for driver’s license application will have alternate options to obtain these requirements.

The YHS Class of 2018 will graduate and commencement will still be held May 22 as scheduled. Please note that seniors will still have to meet the 1,080 hours of instruction to receive their diploma and officially graduate.

Summer School & Summer Camps
The potential of the regular school year being extended into the summer months exists, Summer School and Summer Camps may be impacted and these programs are still under review. We will not make a determination on how these programs are affected until we know if a work stoppage happens and how long the work stoppage lasts.

How will this impact my pay as a teacher or support employee?
We are doing everything we can to help minimize the impact that a work stoppage will have on all of our employees. The answer to this question is complex and depends on if a work stoppage occurs and how long a work stoppage lasts. Internal communications will be sent to you from your site principal or supervisor.

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