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MailTribune.com
  • School of Hard Knocks

    Eagle Point students are feeling the brunt of contract impasse between teachers, district
  • Eagle Point students Tuesday painted a grim picture of schools filled with substitutes while their teachers continued to strike outside.
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  • Eagle Point students Tuesday painted a grim picture of schools filled with substitutes while their teachers continued to strike outside.
    Students said they were lumped together in classes for core subjects — regardless of whether they had passed the class before — and with lesson plans many felt were below their level.
    "I feel like I was babysat instead of being taught," said Kyna Burke, a freshman, after finishing classes Tuesday morning. "I don't think the subs are qualified enough."
    Kyna said she was upset that the substitutes were in the classroom instead of her regular teachers, adding that students won't put up with the chaos for long.
    "We'll get tired of this," she said. "The students will eventually fight back."
    About half of the high school's 1,200 students were missing from class Monday and Tuesday, and others said they left part way through school.
    "Lots of kids are missing from classes," said Jonel Quintero, a freshman.
    Jonel said he had trouble getting to school because the bus was apparently too full, and he left for the day after just a couple of periods.
    "The teachers don't even know what to do," he said, adding he will continue to attend classes if his mom insists.
    The Eagle Point School District reported that one bus had to go over its route twice Monday to pick up missed students, and another bus collided with a truck Tuesday morning, though the accident was determined to be the fault of the truck driver, according to a press release from the Jackson County Sheriff's Department. No one was injured.
    "There have been some rough spots in terms of the buses," said Mike Remick, district human resources director.
    As of Tuesday, school employees had been on strike for eight days. They have said they plan to remain on strike until a new contract is settled.
    Bargaining teams for the district and employees union were back at the table Tuesday morning, though a contract hadn't been decided by late afternoon.
    The district's wish to have control over teacher prep time, the union's wish to ban subcontracting and a disagreement over giving full benefits to part-time employees are the issues keeping the two sides apart.
    The union went on strike May 8, prompting the district to cancel classes last week and bus in more than 60 substitutes to reopen schools Monday.
    While striking teachers have said they are unhappy with "scabs" who have come in to teach classes in their absence, at least one substitute hopes the community can understand a different perspective.
    "I am a caring teacher who thinks these kids should not suffer because of decisions their teachers made," said Iris Summers, who is teaching a fourth- and fifth-grade blended class for White City and Mountain View elementary schools. "I didn't come here for the money, but to be here for the kids."
    Summers said the lesson plans left by teachers were incomplete and some classrooms had been trashed, with supplies thrown away and student work recycled.
    "The conditions at the schools they left are horrible," she said.
    Summers, who has regularly subbed for the district in the past, said if teachers don't end the strike and get back to work, she would be happy to take a permanent position in the fall.
    "Some of us have already been put on hold for next year," said Summers, who said the first day or two of classes can be tricky, as all teachers need time to get to know their students.
    "There are two sides," said Summers. "These children need to be in school."
    Summers said while the district has expressed an interest in wanting to secure her and other teachers for the fall, a rumor that hefty bonuses would be offered to subs who teach until school is out for the summer is untrue, as far as she knows.
    District administrators acknowledged that the first day of school was rocky, with some very large classes and a handful of students receiving incorrect assignments.
    However, they said that by bringing in five more substitutes at the high school Tuesday, they were able to balance classes and work with students one-on-one to make sure their schedules fit their academic needs.
    Although Summers said classes were running as smoothly as possible, some students said the experience was so unbearable they would rather ditch school and protest alongside their teachers.
    "Right now, we're the ones that are suffering," said Katie Mockry, a junior.
    Katie said her assignments on Monday made her feel belittled, and she would rather skip class than continue with the subs.
    "My parents are going to excuse me for the rest of the year," she said.
    Administrators said they will review absences on a case-by-case basis to determine whether they affect a student's ability to receive course credit, taking into consideration whether they were excused by their parents.
    Katie and three of her classmates sat with their own picket signs Tuesday at Centennial Plaza, across the street from the district office.
    "We do connect with our teachers," Katie said. "This is an emotional thing for us."
    Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or tristow@mailtribune.com.
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