MEDFORD, Ore. – Medford teachers are back in their classrooms for the first time since the strike began. On Sunday, nearly 600 teachers re-entered their schools to warm welcomes from principals and staff.
Nearly all of those teachers were dressed in their black “iTeach” t-shirts in solidarity.
“As we were out there we just became… We just fell in love with each other,” said seventh grade Social Science teacher Mary Noble.
But while the picketing is over, the hard work isn’t. Carloads of personal belongings and classroom supplies will need to be moved in.
Teachers will also have to deal with a two-week gap in lessons that may or may not need to be filled.
“We really have no idea what really happened for our kids or how many of them showed up,” said Noble.
Many teachers say they won’t find out what was taught or who attended until they talk to their kids on Monday. But before that can happen, more contract work remains.
On Sunday night, teachers heard from their bargaining team, getting their first look at the agreement that put them back to work.
“We were able to come to what our team feels really good about that our members will accept and not just feel like they’ve settled for something,” said MEA President Cheryl Lashley.
Lashley went on to say, the exact details are not being shared yet. But Lashley said early retirement is not a cliff but a gradual phase-out in the tentative agreement. She also said preparation time was protected and cost of living adjustments meet their expectations. Secondary class sizes and special education working conditions have also apparently been addressed.
Over the next week, teachers will evaluate that contract while gradually moving into their classrooms and re-adjusting lesson plans.
Teachers say it’s a big task, but worth it to finally begin teaching again.
“We missed them,” said Noble. “And we have a lot of catching up to do.”
MEA representatives say they hope to have a ratification vote toward the end of the week. In the meantime schools and bus routes return to normal schedules on Monday.