Summer school: Walkout forces Yukon to extend school year

The Yukon school year will be extended until at least May 30 after teachers decided to continue their walkout this week at the state Capitol.

Yukon’s teachers voted by an overwhelming margin Friday to continue their walkout through at least Wednesday, meaning the first day students could be back in class is Thursday.

However, Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth said if an agreement is reached with lawmakers early this week on items like the capital gains tax, teachers could readjust their schedule.

Teachers have been on a walkout since April 2 demanding additional educational funding from state lawmakers.

During a meeting with teachers on Friday, Simeroth said the district has used all of its snow days and will need to make up any day that is used.

As of Tuesday, the school calendar had been expanded to May 30.

Simeroth hosted a town hall meeting Sunday afternoon at the Fine Arts Auditorium that drew about 150 concerned parents, the district said.

Simeroth said the district is making changes to its schedule so that it will have the least possible impact on Yukon families.

The district plans to expand the school day at the high school by five minutes each day, and the district will utilize its remaining “snow days,” including April 21, which had been scheduled as a day out of class.

The district also will use May 24, May 25, May 29 and May 30.

“We’ve missed seven days. That’s 45 hours,” Simeroth said on Sunday. The additional three days will add about 20 hours to that.

The district must provide 1,080 hours of education, the superintendent said.

“We want to make sure what we do, no matter what, this it is done legally. Our extra days are done,” Simeroth said.

That means tacking those missed days on to the end of the school year.

“It’s not an easy decision. It was not come about lightly, it was thought out. Unfortunately, and I know this is not pleasing, it is where we are headed as a district for the calendar year,” Simeroth said.

He also pointed out that while he is aware that many parents have made summer plans, there is little he can do.

The superintendent said many of the major events will move forward for Yukon students, as planned.

For example, graduation will occur on May 22, and prom is still set for April 21.

“The end of the year is the end of the year. Graduation will happen. Prom will happen. We are moving forward with that as scheduled,” he said.

Meanwhile, another concern is state testing. The strike is occurring in what is normally a testing window.

Simeroth said the district will be ready to give the required exams as quickly as students return.

The state Department of Education, on Monday, extended the testing window by a week.

“Our schoolchildren must have the opportunity to confidently show their best work. This extension is essential to better support students and ensure an appropriate transition back into classrooms,” stated Oklahoma schools Superintendent Janet Hofmeister. “It is also critical that districts have the maximum opportunity possible to meet both state and federal requirements. Federal law requires states to assess 95 percent of the student population. This extension hopefully will prevent jeopardizing of federal funding or incurring penalty.”

Meanwhile, some parents questioned why teachers who are striking also are receiving their normal paycheck.

“We annualize teachers’ salaries. We pay teachers over 12 months for 9 ½ months of clock hours they work. In actuality, we owe teachers money. They haven’t been paid for all of the hours they work yet. That’s why, even though they are in this process, they are still receiving a paycheck,” Simeroth said. “They will fulfill their contracts.”

Simeroth said he feels that the state and teachers are on the cusp of ending the walkout.

“We’ve had the highest common ed budget we’ve ever had. We have a higher per pupil budget than we’ve ever had. When I say that, remember that in each of those areas, we are still far below the regional average.”

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