Local schools to remain open through teacher strike (at least at first)

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Local schools will stay open during the teacher strike, at least at first.

By Jon Johnson


GRAHAM COUNTY – Unlike many other school districts across the state, local school districts in Graham and Greenlee counties will be open.

Numerous school districts in Tucson, Sahuarita, Marana and those in Maricopa County have announced they will close Thursday due to the teacher walkout. But locally, Safford, Thatcher, Pima, Morenci, and Duncan school districts have all acknowledged they will remain open, even if it isn’t quite business as usual.

Previously, #RedForEd organizers reported more than 57,000 teachers and school employees voted on whether to strike and out of those who did vote, 78 percent answered in the affirmative.

However, Pima School Superintendent Sean Rickert said the strike isn’t as well supported in rural areas as it is in metro areas and that there are roughly 300,000 school employees. That means that only a minority of the eligible workers actually voted for the strike.

On Tuesday, both Safford and Pima school districts announced they would stay open Thursday, and Thatcher Superintendent Dr. Kevin Spiller told the Gila Herald the same. He said with the current data he had regarding the walkout, Thatcher would remain open at this point.

Representatives from Duncan and Morenci school districts also replied the same.

Update: Pima has sent out a letter to parents indicating they will have a shortened schedule Thursday and Monday due to not having enough available substitutes. Following is the letter:

At Pima Schools, our mission is to provide a quality education for all students, in a safe
and nurturing environment, in partnership with parents and our community. Sometimes
achieving this mission is more challenging. Of the many factors that contribute to our ability to
successfully achieve that mission, none matters more than our teachers. As you may have
heard, teachers in Arizona have been demonstrating for the last month. They held marches and
walk-ins, but on Thursday, April 26, they are staging a walk-out. Of the forty-six teachers at
Pima Schools, we expect that twenty-two will be absent on Thursday. This is more teachers
than we can cover with available substitutes. So, we will not be able to offer every student the
same experience that we offer on a regular school day.
All students and parents rely on our schools for a quality education, but many also need
us to provide a safe supervised place for their child during the day. We also provide many
students with two meals a day free of charge. Although we are not going to be able to fully
achieve our mission during the absence of almost half our teachers, we are going to ensure that
every student has a positive experience where learning can happen in a safe place. The
principals at each school have developed plans that use the available resources to keep their
schools open.
On Thursday, April 26, the school will operate on a shortened schedule. School will
begin at the usual time, and students who ride the bus will arrive at the normal time. High
School and Junior High students will be released for lunch at 12:25 p.m. Buses will take them home
at 1 p.m. Elementary School students will be fed lunch at their regular times and will be
dismissed to the buses at 1 p.m. as well. If teachers have still not returned to work on Monday,
April 30 we will run the same shortened schedule. This is going to create some disruption for
parents, but we are doing the best we can to serve our students in this situation.
We understand that many parents may feel that it is not in their child’s best interest to
attend school during these days. Students who do not attend will not be penalized, and their
absence will be marked as excused. Our goal is to ensure that our students have the
opportunity to attend school in spite of this action by the teachers, and we are grateful to the
teachers demonstrating their commitment to Pima Schools by continuing to perform their
It is my sincere hope that the Arizona Legislature and Governor Doug Ducey will quickly
enact a budget addressing the needs of our schools. Hopefully, a resolution to this conflict can
arrive at quickly and we can finish the year on a positive note.
Finally, there have been many questions about year-end events. At this time we do not
expect that there will be any change to the high school graduation and eighth-grade promotion
ceremonies. We are also expecting that the last day of school will remain unchanged.

Editor’s Note: The letter was edited for publication.