Teacher strikes continued in Evergreen and Camas on Thursday, withstanding an odd mixture of intermittent showers and waves of wildfire smoke from the northeast.
Schools in Evergreen will remain closed Friday, marking the third day of the strike.
In Camas, schools are closed Friday for what was scheduled to be a non-instructional holiday on the district’s calendar. A union representative said Thursday they are prepared to return to the picket line on Tuesday if a deal can’t be reached over the weekend.
Battle Ground Public Schools, though still engaged in bargaining with its own teachers union, remains open Friday for its first week of classes.
The Camas Education Association held a rally to support teachers on the picket lines Thursday afternoon at Crown Park in Camas. Clips shared by the union on social media Thursday afternoon showcased individual speakers, group chants and performances from the Camas High School marching band.
“My kids are coping by playing and walking and marching with their teachers, but they are tired and every day say, ‘I wish I could go to school,’ ” said Joann Boswell, the parent of Camas students in a release shared by the union Thursday afternoon. “They are devastated by the news they have to wait.”
With each strike multiple days in, both unions have taken to Facebook as a hub for sharing perspectives from teachers walking the picket lines and union leaders actively at the bargaining table.
In a video shared Thursday afternoon, Evergreen’s union President Kristie Peak said they waited four hours to receive a counter-proposal from the district in their Wednesday bargaining session. When they did hear back, it was with a proposal that was “essentially a repeat” of what they had been previously offered.
“One of the big things we’re fighting for right now is collaboration. With the oncoming of (the neighborhood schools model) we’ve tried to come with the district to create ways to build time into our days to talk about students, support students and find the time,” said Manny Athens, a member of the union’s bargaining team.
The neighborhood schools model is a state initiative that seeks to maximize the time special education students spend in a general education classroom. Both teachers and paraeducators have said without proper support staffing and increased time allotted for staff to consult with one another, it may be set up for failure.
“Part of why I wanted to work here was because of what we were doing in inclusion in special education. There’s a lot of good stuff out there, but a lot of it has fallen flat,” said Michael Bowersox, a special education teacher picketing Wednesday. “There’s been a lot of quick change, but what you need is that commitment to allow a long time for real change. Another big struggle is trying to meet state expectations without receiving enough training.”
Moving toward the weekend
Middle and high school athletics in Evergreen Public Schools will continue after school hours Friday. The district provides both breakfast and lunch for parents to pick up on behalf of their children; meals can be received at any school location regardless of whether a parent’s child attends it.
Full details on Evergreen meal services are available on the district’s website: https://sites.google.com/evergreenps.org/strike-meals-2023/home.
Evergreen, Battle Ground and Camas again met with mediators Thursday; Evergreen is bargaining again Friday. The weekend schedules for bargaining in each district were not yet available Thursday evening.