School districts starting to announce closures for teacher walkouts
The first Arizona districts have announced they will close their schools for at least one day next week due to the teacher walkout.
On Friday, Mesa Public Schools sent a letter to parents announcing the schools will close Thursday and remain closed until the walkout ends.
The letter added that school days missed will be added to the end of the school calendar, beginning May 25.
Additionally, extracurricular activities will be suspended and could be rescheduled. Varsity sports teams will continue to play and practice on their normal schedule. Junior varsity and high school athletics will be suspended.
Mesa Public Schools is the largest school district in Arizona, with approximately 64,000 students, according to Gov. Doug Ducey’s office.
The Alhambra Elementary School District was the first to reveal plans for its schools to be closed on Thursday, and the Paradise Valley Unified School District soon followed suit.
The Chandler Unified School District and Holbrook School District also announced plans for closures.
In addition, both the Winslow Unified School District and Page Unified School District sent out plans for the upcoming walkout.
Tucson Unified School District, however, announced that it will remain open on Thursday. It is the largest district in Southern Arizona, with about 47,000 students, according to the district website.
The Agua Fria Union high School District is asking faculty and staff to consider keeping the schools open, but only working “early release days” in an effort to not add on any additional days at the end of the year. Working an early release day would also ensure that teachers still got paid.
A final decision on the matter will come Wednesday.
In a letter to parents on Friday, the Alhambra Elementary superintendent said, “Because we anticipate a large percentage of staff participating in this walkout, all Alhambra Elementary School District schools will be closed on Thursday, April 26 for one day.”
The letter went on to say that parents would need to find alternative daycare plans for Thursday and at this time staff will return to work and classes will resume on the day after.
A letter from the Paradise Valley superintendent to families and staff sent Friday confirmed that district’s schools would close Thursday. “I have said all along that we will not put students and staff in an unsafe situation, and I believe the decision to close school is in the best interest of our students and staff,” the letter signed by James Lee said.
The Paradise Valley letter also said the district has no plans for closure beyond Thursday, but that would be updated when more information about the length of the walkout was made available.
The CUSD is planning for a walkout, but also keeping an eye on the upcoming days.
“Based on the facts we have today, we are planning to close schools on Thursday due to concerns about having sufficient personnel to ensure the safety of our students and staff,” CUSD Superintendent Dr. Camille Casteel said in a letter. “If the statewide direction changes, we will inform you immediately.”
In the event of a walkout, we will operate similarly to fall, winter and spring intersessions with our self-funded Community Education child care services being offered at selected sites. We will notify you on Monday regarding locations and enrollment procedures.”
Additionally, the district was making arrangements to provide food for students.
PVSD said in a letter that if an agreement is reached by the Governor and legislators by Tuesday, Thursday’s school day will commence as a normal day. If not, the district will treat it as a snow day.
WUSD was in the process of letting staff and teachers know that schools will close if a walkout occurs, stating that there were too many unknowns to appropriately prepare to continue school operations.
The Deer Valley School District sent out an automated recording to parents, letting them know that school will be closed on Thursday and that it will remain closed until they can be sure there will be at least 75 percent of certified teachers back in the classrooms. The district will notify parents through email and over the phone once a decision has been made to reopen.
The Scottsdale Unified School District sent a letter to parents, telling them that the district does not wish to close schools Thursday but may be forced to do so in the event of a staff shortage. The district said it will notify parents with the status of a potential closure by noon on Tuesday.
In the event of a closure, the district said that transportation services for students enrolled in off-campus programs and high school athletics would still function as normal, but there would be no bus services to any of the closed campuses.
Additionally, school events such as graduation would still be held as scheduled, while field trips would be on a case-by-case basis.
Many other school districts across the state have sent parents a letter explaining that if enough of their staff participates in the walkout they would need to close.
A total of 57,000 teachers took part in the voting earlier this week. Seventy-eight percent of them voted yes.
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will be treated as walk-ins, while Thursday’s protest would be a walkout, a statewide first. Superintendent Mark Yslas does not expect any of the walk-ins to disrupt instruction.
Educators have been calling on Gov. Doug Ducey and other lawmakers to increase their pay by 20 percent, increase the pay of school staff and improve their schools’ conditions.
Last week, Ducey announced a proposal which would give teachers a 20 percent pay raise over the next two years. It would also pledge $371 million in funding for schools to use on improvement projects.
On Friday, Ducey vetoed 10 House bills with the same message given as why: “Please, send me a budget that gives teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020 and restores additional assistance.”
The Arizona Education Association, the state’s largest professional association for public school employees, already had said the proposal didn’t meet enough of the demands of the Red for Ed movement.
Teachers have been holding weekly “walk-ins” – statewide protests held before school – each of the past three Wednesdays.
But a walkout would turn up the pressure on Ducey and lawmakers to come up with a plan that appeases all parties.