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140 teachers join Yukon schools’ staff

When classes open Aug. 16 for students in the Yukon School District, there will be at least 140 new teachers joining them, school officials said.

Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth said 140 new teachers have been hired by the district. That includes 16 new positions that have been created based on the district’s anticipated enrollment.

“Those will be new classrooms and new teachers to help us reduce class size across the district,” Simeroth said.

He said the new positions are spread throughout the district.

“The majority are sixth-grade or below,” Simeroth said of the new teachers.

To make room for more teachers, the district reclaimed some office space, including moving food services, which had been based at Independence Elementary School to the Yukon Middle School.

Last year, the district was forced to hire several emergency certified teachers. This year, while there are still a few teachers with emergency certifications, most are classroom certified.

Simeroth said the district tries to use emergency certified staff only when they are unable to find certified staff.

As of this week, he said, the district only had two openings — an Oklahoma history spot and a special education opening.

Simeroth said he expects those positions to be filled before the first day of class.

Meanwhile, Yukon teachers will soon begin receiving their pay raises.

The state board of education recently certified a new pay scale that gives teacher pay increases that average $6,000.

Yukon teachers also will receive those pay increase, which will continue to push the district’s salaries to among the top paid in the region.

Simeroth said the district recently began negotiations with the Yukon Education Association, whose members will vote Aug. 16.

“We’ve already put the money in place. The raises are in the budget,” he said. “We are planning to pay what the state wants us to pay teachers.”

Simeroth said Yukon already had significantly higher salaries than the state minimum.

“We pay above the minimum and we’ve always paid above the minimum. We’ve done a lot in the last three years to be among the top paid districts in the state. We’re up there pretty close,” he said.

That has helped Yukon recruit and keep some of the best teachers in the state.

For the past two years, Yukon has had finalists for state teacher of the year.

Rebecca Oglesby, an art teacher at Ranchwood Elementary, was named a finalist for the honor earlier this month. There are 12 finalists.

The winner will be announced at the Oklahoma State Fair.

Meanwhile, the district is expecting an enrollment of 9,500 students. That is an increase of about 2 percent, Simeroth said.

The superintendent said the district follows a trend where if a senior class is smaller, the following few years will see higher enrollment.

Simeroth said that appears to be the direction this year’s enrollment will go.

This year’s senior class is expected to be around 600.

Most of those increases are coming from the Surrey Hills addition, near Myers Elementary as well as near Lake Overholser.

“That’s where we are going to see a lot of growth over the next few years,” he said.

Construction is scheduled to begin in January on an intermediate school in the Surrey Hills area to help with the student growth in that neighborhood.

Also, the district is constructing three new classrooms at Surrey Hills Elementary. However, construction won’t be completed until next year.

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