An empty parking lot symbolizes more than a school closure.
Late Thursday evening, Standley Lake and Conifer high schools canceled classes for Friday, Sept. 19, following a high number of teachers calling in absence for the day.
The protest comes following a period of unease between the district’s teachersassociation, Jefferson County Education Association and the board of education. Issues have included the hiring process of the district's new superintendent, budgetary choices, JCEA contract negotiations and most recently, concerns with the advanced placement U.S. history curriculum. Recently, JCEA membership announced unanimous disapproval of school board president Ken Witt.
“I’m extremely disappointed that the same teachers who wore the 'Stand Up For Kids' buttons last night, did not show up for work this morning,” Witt said Friday.
Rumors of the organized "sick-day" circulated among those at the Sept. 18 board meeting, following the receipt of a districtwide email from the Jeffco Schools communications department telling teachers and administrators an organized "walk-out" was illegal by Colorado law and may force the district to close schools.
"We also can't disregard the impact on our students and schools if this were to happen," the email read. "If a large number of teachers are absent, we may have to close schools because we wouldn't have enough adults in the building to ensure an acceptable educational environment for students. Closing a school would greatly impact our students and their families."
During the meeting, representatives from Jeffco PTA and John Ford, the JCEA president, said both organization are not involved and did not condone the event.
Standley Lake freshman Ashley Nassif spent part of her unexpected day off at the Starbucks near the school.
“It’s good to protest for it ... if it doesn’t stay closed for too long,” she said.
Some 2,000 students were impacted by the school closures. Jeffco Schools Communications Spokesperson Lynn Setzer said Friday morning that the district was still working to obtain the final number of absent teachers.
“Last night we voted to provide teachers with much better compensation than they could have anticipated,” Witt said. “It’s time we stood up for kids instead of just wearing the buttons.”
The district email said the length of the school closure is uncertain but could extend through Monday, Sept. 22. Additional information is available on the district website at jeffcopublicschools.org/closures/index.html
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