Area school districts are closely watching the legislature as many educators prepare to answer the call for a statewide teacher walkout.

Area school districts are closely watching the legislature as many educators prepare to answer the call for a statewide teacher walkout.

The 14 districts in Pottawatomie County were varied in how they intend to play out the situation, based upon what lawmakers decide this week.

Closure

Several local districts — McLoud, Dale, Bethel, Pleasant Grove and Tecumseh — have chosen to close if a statewide strike is called.

Via a Facebook post, McLoud Superintendent Steve Stanley weighed in on the situation.

“We will provide updates as soon as we receive more information from the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA), the Oklahoma State Department of Education, or other educational agencies,” the post states.

Also, on McLoud school's website, in a letter addressed to parents, it reads, “… unless the Oklahoma State Legislature passes a bill resulting in a teacher pay raise by April 2, there will be a teacher work stoppage resulting in the closure of many school districts in Oklahoma, including McLoud Schools.”

How long the work stoppage will last is up to the Oklahoma State Legislature and their actions to pass a teacher pay raise, the site states.

“The McLoud Board of Education and Administration are in full support of our teachers and support staff and subsequent actions they feel they must take for a salary increase, including a district-wide suspension of classes,” the letter reads.

The teaching profession in Oklahoma is being crippled and decimated and our students are suffering the consequences, the site reads.

“We urge the Oklahoma State Legislature to pass a pay increase for teachers and support staff as swiftly as possible to avoid a work stoppage and actually make education a priority as they have promised, but failed to deliver, thus far, Sincerely, McLoud Public Schools.”

Superintendent Charlie Dickinson confirmed Dale Schools also will close if teachers strike next week.

Bethel Schools will close pending a strike.

“We had a school board meeting before spring break and have determined that we are in support of the teachers and will go ahead and suspend instruction,” Bethel Superintendent Tod Harrison said.

Pleasant Grove will not have classes if the teachers decide to follow through with the strike.

“As a school we will go up to the Capitol and show our presence,” Superintendent Scott Roper said. “This isn't just a walk for teacher salary, it is for the education funding that has been cut over the last 10 years.”

After a school board meeting Monday night, Tecumseh Schools will close pending a teacher strike.

“We conducted a survey and roughly 44-percent of our teachers wanted to participate in a five-day strike, while 31-percent said they wanted to stay out as long as it took and roughly 25-percent did not want to participate,” Tecumseh Superintendent Tom Wilsie said.

If the strike continues over five days, the school board would re-evaluate the situation, Wilsie said.

If closed, schools in the district would be open for lunches, Wilsie confirmed. Cross Timbers, Bernard and the Middle School would offer meals during the strike.

Snow days

South Rock Creek plans to use snow days to offer teachers the ability to represent their district at the Capitol.

“If a solution has not been achieved by the April 1 deadline, South Rock Creek Schools will be using our four remaining snows days to go to the Capitol,” Superintendent Mike Crawford said. “We would be out April 2-5; after that we will be back in school and would decide at a later date if something else needs to be done.”

On the district's website, it was noted the SRC school board voted to support their teachers by using April 2-5 as school advocacy days. It also said state testing would be pushed back one week.

Open

Some schools have opted to stay open, sending some delegates to advocate at the Capitol on their behalf — Macomb, North Rock Creek, Asher and Earlsboro.

Macomb Superintendent Matt Riggs said even if a teacher walkout commences next week, Macomb will still hold school.

"We have no plan to shut down," Riggs said, although they will likely send a couple of teachers to represent the district at the Capitol.

Riggs said while the district fully supports teachers in this cause, closing school would pose a hardship for the families and parents, and Macomb teachers are in agreement.

"They did not want to close school," Riggs added.

North Rock Creek Superintendent Blake Moody said before the House vote the district had already made the decision to remain open, sending a small group — about seven — teachers to the Capitol.

Passage of the vote Monday was encouraging to those in Moody's district.

“Folks seem to be satisfied with the House's efforts this week,” he said. “I believe it may pass in the Senate, as well, and that Gov. Fallin will sign it.”

The measure will be able to take care of a little bit for now, he said.

“This isn't the last step; it's the first step,” he said.

Moody said hopefully this action will cause enough momentum to continue efforts by the legislature to take care of education in the state. He said his district will continue the push to support education.

“We really have a supportive legislators in Pottawatomie County,” he said. They love our schools and consistently take care of us.”

Moody said he believes they are starting to have some influence over others at the Capitol.

“I am very thankful for our legislators and their constant support of us since I've been here,” he said.

Asher has determined to remain open if the teachers decide to strike.

“We will be off school on April 2 (in observance of the Easter Holiday), so we will send a delegation to the Capitol as needed,” said Asher superintendent Terry Grissom. “Either way we support our teachers and a majority of them voted to stay and be here for our students.”

Earlsboro Schools will remain open but plans on sending representation to the capital during the strike.

“The administration supports not only our teachers but all teachers. But we will keep school running with all the state testing coming up we felt it was important to have our students be a part of that and keep the school running,” Earlsboro Superintendent Mark Malloy said. “Our community has supported us and this is our way of returning the favor and helping them.”

Undecided

A couple school districts — Grove and Shawnee — are waiting to see how things play out.

Grove Superintendent Mark Bowlan said at this time, the district has not determined whether school will need to be closed or remain open on April 2.

The Grove School administration, in collaboration with its teachers, and in consideration of the students and families, he said, has been working diligently to consider the many complex issues associated with a possible teacher walkout.

“We will continue to collaborate with our teachers and communicate with our parents through this fluid situation,” he said. “We are also very appreciative of local church and community organizations that have made plans to offer services for students should schools close.”

He said the board and administration strongly support our teachers and the work that they do educating the children of our district, he said.

“We strongly support a much needed, reoccurring salary increase for our teachers, and we greatly appreciate our local legislators who have supported increases in teacher pay and education funding,” he said.

Though Shawnee has not yet committed to a decision, Superintendent Dr. April Grace said schools will remain open to a degree — but maybe not for students.

During a special meeting Monday afternoon, the Shawnee Board of Education approved a resolution to to support teachers and authorize Grace to suspend instructional services, if necessary — not to exceed 15 days without additional board action and not more than three days declared as advocacy days.

The resolution reads that the Board of Education supports a salary increase for public school teachers and encourages the Oklahoma Legislature to find a dedicated source of revenue that can be utilized to fund a much-needed, reoccurring salary increase for the public teachers of Oklahoma.

The resolution also OKs keeping activities and support services operational for a period of time.

“Support employees we have different nuances with as they are hourly employees,” Grace said. “We need to keep many of our support services in place so the district would not necessarily be shut down even though we may suspend classes in an effort to support teacher advocacy.”

As of press time, neither Maud nor Wanette schools had responded with their intentions concerning the potential walkout.

The state

The House, needing to secure a 75-percent majority during an evening session Monday, voted (79-21) in favor of a revenue package to fund teacher pay raises.

After the House vote, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said, “The Oklahoma House of Representatives worked together in a show of admirable bipartisanship to strengthen public education for our nearly 700,000 schoolchildren across the state.”

These measures finally ensure Oklahoma’s dedicated, hard-working public schoolteachers receive well-deserved, competitive pay, she said.

“In addition, the bills provide desperately needed resources for textbooks and support staff who perform vital services for our students,” she said. “We know that increased teacher pay is not a cure-all for our state’s crippling teacher shortage, but it would solidly put us on track to retain our committed educators and recruit new teachers to the profession. Without a teacher pay raise, an already devastating situation will only worsen, with children being the ultimate victims.”

She said she is greatly encouraged by the show of overwhelming bipartisan statesmanship and am grateful to each legislator who stepped up to support this historic legislation and giant step forward.

The measure now goes to the Senate.

Watch for updates.