MEDFORD, Ore. – Denzil Guy plays video games on the back porch of his Medford home. His first day of class will go on without him.
“I’m not going to let my child go anywhere that I don’t make sure it’s a safe environment for him,” said his mother, Faye.
Denzil is seven years old and has autism, a condition which gives him a tendency to wander. On Tuesday, his special needs classes at Jacksonville Elementary were moved to Griffin Creek.
But when his mother went to see his new environment, administrators turned her away.
“I said I just wanted to see the classroom and make sure it’s a safe environment for him,” said Faye. “She said no parents allowed.”
The same situation played out across the district. At Kennedy Elementary, nervous parents lined up outside the gates, while others had to hug their children goodbye from the sidewalk.
“Even on the first day of school we’re allowed to meet the teachers, we’re allowed to see the classroom,” said mother Denyce Henry. “I’ve never been in this school, I don’t know what’s behind the locked gates.”
The district says they decided to keep parents out for security reasons — preferring an added inconvenience over a missing child.
“If you have 600 strangers coming into a new area, you don’t want to have 1200 coming in at the same time,” said Julie Evans, the Director of Elementary Education for the district.
Evans also admits the strike is leading them into unknown territory.
“We’ve never done this before,” said Evans. “A strike isn’t a typical thing that you prepare for. It’s something that you can’t anticipate what the bumps might all be.”
Evans says part of the process of navigating this unknown territory is reviewing what went right and wrong each day. She also says they’ll be considering this policy among many others. But meanwhile, many parents say if they can’t get in, neither will their kids.