Dickson Public Schools will participate if the statewide teacher walkout happens next month.
The Dickson Board of Education made the decision last night during a meeting, passing a resolution supporting teachers and support employees seeking a pay raise and a second resolution authorizing Superintendent Jeff Colclasure to close the schools for five days in the event of a walkout.
The resolution specifies that legislators should find a permanent solution, not a partial one.
“The ideal is to come up with something that is fully funded,” Colclasure said. “It doesn’t do any good to pass a plan if you don’t have the funding sources.”
During the meeting, Colclasure said surveys showed that 75 percent of Dickson’s teacher are in favor of walking out.
“I think we’re all in agreement that something has to give,” Colclasure said. “Something has to change. It’s not only about teacher pay, it’s about school funding.”
Colclasure cited a lack of basic supplies, decade-old textbooks and the teacher shortage as reasons for the decision.
“There’s no reason we should be offering a substandard education to our students, not to mention the fact that we’re hemorrhaging teachers to other states and we don’t have people entering the teacher education programs,” Colclasure said. “We’ve kind of reached critical mass.”
The district will be closed for five days starting April 2. If the walkout continues, the board will meet again to set another timeframe. He said the district is prepared to continue the walkout until April 16, the last possible day they could begin state testing.
“The problem comes in because in order to meet the (Every Student Succeeds Act) requirements, we have to test 95 percent of our student population,” Colclasure said. “If we, as a state, don’t, we are at risk of losing some or all of our federal (education) funding.”
Colclasure said that would mean a $530,000 loss for Dickson, roughly 10 teachers’ salaries.
The walkout could put other funding at risk as well, something the administration is working to avoid. Students in special education will need to continue receiving services, or receive compensatory services during the walkout. If they don’t, the school could lose portions of its funding.
“Those are hard marks that we have to hit,” Colclasure said.
About 60 percent of the student body receives free and reduced lunch, which means those students could go hungry during the walkout, a common concern among participating districts. The administration is making plans to bus students to and from the school for lunch during the walkout.
“It’s a little bit more of a challenge here but I think we’ve come up with a workable plan,” Colclasure said.
The district is seeking volunteers to help feed students lunch during a walkout and donations of shelf-stable food to send home with them. Legally, the school cannot buy food to send home and must rely on outside sources. Colclasure said continuing to supply food to students is particularly important for Dickson, which is more rural and sparsely populated.
“That really hurts us,” Colclasure said. “In Ardmore, they could open feeding stations where they could walk in. We could do the same thing, but some of our kids would have to walk 12 miles.”
Extracurricular activities and practices will continue during a walkout, with practices limited to after 3:25 p.m., when the school day would usually end. Prom, ACT testing on April 3 and graduation will not be impacted.
Colclasure said a worst-case scenario would entail walking out, reopening for testing on April 16, and walking out again if the state legislature had not yet found a solution.
Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Dickson Public Schools’ main line at (580) 223-9557.