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2:33 PM Wed, Nov. 14th

Plans in place for potential Thursday teacher walkout

Taylor Hicks Elementary School second-grade teacher Carrie Farnsworth in Prescott grades papers at Cuppers Coffeehouse on North Cortez Street, as part of the #RedForEd “Grade Ins” at education-friendly coffee shops. She is grading math papers. (Nanci Hutson/Courier)

Taylor Hicks Elementary School second-grade teacher Carrie Farnsworth in Prescott grades papers at Cuppers Coffeehouse on North Cortez Street, as part of the #RedForEd “Grade Ins” at education-friendly coffee shops. She is grading math papers. (Nanci Hutson/Courier)

A looming statewide teacher walkout on Thursday will have a bit of different look in the Quad-City region, as well as in a number of districts across Yavapai County.

Although there is strong support for Arizona Educators United’s #RedForEd movement, a scheduled walkout for Thursday, April 26, is getting mixed reviews.

In Prescott, #RedForEd leaders and school district administrators hammered out an option they dubbed “Walk About,” a courthouse plaza rally on Thursday and Friday that will enable the district to meet required school times without adding extra days to the calendar, but still enables teachers to rally for more education funding. The particulars: a two-hour delay on Thursday and an early release, half-day on Friday.

Chino Valley Unified will have a three-hour early release on Thursday; their schools are closed on Friday; and Humboldt Unified has scheduled a special meeting for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 24, to determine its final plan. Mayer schools will remain open for a full day. In Skull Valley, the smallest district in the area, the kindergarten to sixth-grade school has two teachers who will participate in the walk out, closing the school on Thursday; they are normally closed on Fridays.

Yavapai County Superintendent Tim Carter released the results of a walkout survey on Monday.

Though shy on details — he deferred to the districts- Carter said eight districts “have come up with very thoughtful approaches to the situation, using a variety of ideas to shorten the day, cover classes, and focus attention on the positive aspects of the day.”

Ten districts reported there will be no strike, two said a strike is possible, but a firm decision has yet to be made, and six districts have not yet responded, he said.

Messages about vote tallies left on Monday for organizers in Prescott, Humboldt and Chino Valley about how many voted for or against a walkout went unanswered.

On the day of the vote, one local representative said the state #RedForEd organizers did not intend to provide district-by-district results.

“This is a really tough conundrum for everyone involved,” said Prescott Unified District Superintendent Joe Howard. “Walkouts are tricky. It’s a pretty strong line in the sand, and it pits people against one another. I think they’re created to create chaos. And we’re all feeling that right now.”

Howard was clear he did not endorse a walkout, putting him in a tough spot with the very people for whom he has long been a vocal advocate — the classroom teacher and support personnel.

“I think we’ve found a win here,” Howard said of the alternative plan.

Taylor Hicks Elementary second-grade teacher Carrie Farnsworth in Prescott said she hopes people see the hybrid option as a thoughtful way to keep schools open and yet let teachers have a voice in this one-of-a-kind advocacy effort. On Sunday afternoon, the 16-year educator, the last two in Prescott, was at Cuppers Coffeehouse on North Cortez Street grading a stack of math papers.

Wearing the symbolic red shirt, Farnsworth joined with teachers from around the region who are raising awareness about the movement with regular weekend “Grade-Ins” at education-friendly coffee shops.

“We want to be in our classrooms teaching our kids, but we want them to have (appropriate) resources because that’s what they deserve,” she said.

Humboldt Unified Superintendent Dan Streeter outlined four potential scenarios on the district website: schools operate as usual; schools stay open with transportation and limited instruction and services based on adequate staff to keep students safe; schools open for food service only without transportation; schools close.

Every day until the walkout, Humboldt teachers are continuing to conduct “walk-ins” to show support for raising the bar for education. Several teachers and district leaders said they hoped a strike could be avoided, but appreciate that for the first time ever educators are united in a common purpose.

Chino Valley Unified Superintendent John Scholl said his district’s plan is rooted in doing both what’s right for education in this state and what’s right for the community’s children. Their option will enable the district to go forward with its end-of-the-year schedule, and graduation, without interruption, he said.

“I think this is a good compromise,” Scholl concluded.

Follow Nanci Hutson on Twitter @HutsonNanci. Reach her at 928-445-3333 ext. 2041.