Medford Teachers on Strike

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Thursday morning, lines of Medford teachers stood in the 40-degree weather on the first day of a strike against the Medford School District. Teachers stood in front of Central Medford High School after negotiations toward a new contract were unsuccessful. Now the question is how long it will be until the strike is over and teachers will return to classrooms.

Schools were closed Thursday February 6 and Friday February 7 and will be closed Monday February 10 as well before reopening Tuesday. When they do return to school, students will be consolidated into larger class sizes and days will be shortened. Specifically, the 14 elementary schools, two middle schools and the three high schools will all be on half days. Seven elementary schools will be in class from 8:00 am to 12:15. The other seven will go from 12:15 to 4:30. From 8:30-12:30, all three high schools will send their students to North Medford High School. The two middle schools will be going to either North or South Medford High School from 12:20 to 4:35. All elective classes, such as art and theater, will be cut. The only sports that will continue are varsity sports. Many parents are planning to keep their kids home during the strike to support teachers.

Ashland science teacher Kate Kennedy spoke about the strike. In an interview with her, Kennedy talked about the closed door policy. Due to this policy, it is very hard to gauge the length of the strike. Kennedy hopes the strike ends soon, using Eagle Point’s 2012 strike as evidence of the harm a strike can do. Kennedy said that some courses for college credit did not get their credit due to the missed days of instruction, and at the end of that school year, over 60 teachers left the district. She also said morale has dropped throughout the district since the strike. The sooner the teachers in Medford and the district can agree on a contract, the more likely the district is to keep up morale in years to come.

While the closed door policy keeps the public from knowing exactly what the sticking points are, there are a few contract issues that are likely catalysts for the disagreement. One of the most basic issues is whether the contract is for two or three years. Another possibly major part is who pays for insurance; the district wants the teachers to pay for part. Also, there is the question of whether teachers who retire before 65 stay insured. Kennedy says that salary is likely not as major an issue, but working conditions may be. Specifically length of both prep time and the work day.

As the strike goes forward there are a fews ways it may affect Ashland. First off there are multiple students whose parents are Medford teachers. This is the most obvious connection to the strike. Another way it may affect Ashland is the availability of substitute teachers. Medford will be paying double the normal substitute wage.

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