MEDFORD, Ore. — North Medford High School teachers sang the Black Tornado fight song as they watched their students file into school for the first time since the strike began.
“It’s kind of interesting seeing our school over there and all of our teachers over here,” said North Medford students Halli and Mya Roussell. “I’m not really expecting to be able to learn very much, but we’re going in hopeful.”
It didn’t last long. Less than a half hour into the day, students began to walk out.
“We were pretty much just sitting there for 40 minutes, get a five-minute break and do that, if think, four times before lunch then we’re released. There’s no substitutes, nothing, just self-teaching,” said North Medford senior Brooke Fitzgerald.
North Medford High School was one of several stops Superintendent Phil long made and he said accommodations were in place to prevent overcrowding.
“Well, there are plenty of seats because we have a seat for every kid who is at the larger school and of course, we have paired smaller schools at those sites. So there is enough room to accommodate students,” said Superintendent Long.
Over at Lone Pine Elementary, the children who showed up had a seat in their classrooms and interacted with their guest teachers.
North Medford students said it was crowded in their limited time at school Tuesday, and that’s when they began to leave. The district had aimed to hire 300 substitutes. Tuesday, Superintendent Long said they only had about 150.
High school seniors have been told their graduation isn’t in jeopardy throughout the strike, but students must complete required work.
“They, sometimes, will exercise their free will in ways that I wouldn’t want them to do, and miss opportunities and there’s great opportunities for them to continue their education right now,” said Superintendent Long.
Fitzgerald said attendance is important to her, but she picked up her work and left early.
“A lot of kids left because they just have us in the commons and in the library, they pretty much gave us folders and said ‘work on stuff you want to work on from all your classes,’” said Fitzgerald.
Eighty-one percent of North Medford students showed up on the first day back, some left unsure if they would return Wednesday and others said some students left before they even gave it a chance.
“Yeah, I think they didn’t really give it a chance, we expected to have substitutes in classes but it’s just kind of unfair to us,” said Fitzgerald.