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Medford School District says school attendance during strike is 'parental decision'

By Sam Wheeler

Mail Tribune

About 180 community members packed an hour-long forum Tuesday evening to hear teachers describe options they will have for their children enrolled in a Medford school in the event of a strike.

Attendance guidelines, picketing rules and lesson plans in the event of a strike were addressed, but many of the questions parents and community members asked were referred to the Medford School District for answers.

Students, unless accompanied by a parent, will not be allowed to picket with teachers outside schools, teachers union members said.

"All 600 teachers are hoping that this thing is settled," said Dan Jones, a fourth-grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary. "If for some reason this is not settled, the strike will begin ... we will be out in force picketing."

Jones and Lisa North, an instructional coach with the district, spoke to the audience on behalf of the Medford Education Association, which organized the forum.

North said the decision of whether children should attend school is a "parental decision ... we are not suggesting one way or another."

According to state law, students can't miss more than 10 consecutive days of school or their enrollment will be withdrawn. However, a student can miss nine consecutive days, attend school for a half day, and the 10-day count restarts.

If a strike were to last longer than 10 days and a parent wishes for their student not to attend school during that time, another option, North said, is to miss more than 10 consecutive days and reenroll after the strike is settled.

When members of the audience suggested that keeping their children home would support the teachers' stance in the negotiations with the district, North said, "we appreciate the support, be we just cannot make that decision."

Responding to a recurring question from the audience, North said all district teachers are required to leave lesson plans for substitutes in the event of a strike, but she couldn't be certain how those plans would be implemented.

"Teachers have been required to leave lesson plans," she said, adding, "(Substitute teachers) are licensed teachers able to teach in Oregon."

Ryan Anderson, 36, parent of an Oak Grove Elementary first-grade student, said he plans to keep his child home in the event of a strike.

"I feel to fully show my support for the teachers is to not allow my student to go to school, and it's also for my child's safety," Anderson said. "I am very grateful to see the teachers taking the time to speak with the parents, because I don't see the district doing this."

Tammy Shukoski, whose son attends Howard Elementary, said she will not allow him to attend school if there is a strike, because it will be to stressful for him as a student and her as a parent.

Shukoski said she supports the teachers in the contract negotiations.

"I am not letting my kid go ... it's not fair to him," she said. "I will pull him out of school and I will just reenroll."