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Woodburn Education Association teachers elect to take part in the statewide May 8 rally, closing schools that day

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - From left, Kathy Kuftin, Gabiola Gavina and Lisa Boehnlein from Woodburn Education Association rally in support of the Student Success Act at Highway 214 and Boones Ferry Road on Wednesday, May 1.The Woodburn Education Association announced that it will join Oregon Education Association's statewide rally planned for Wednesday, May 8.

Woodburn schools will be closed that day.

North Marion School District schools will remain open, Superintendent Ginger Redlinger affirmed, while Mount Angel's status has yet to be announced.

Gervais School District will be open as well, but teachers will be welcome to show their support.

"As of this morning our teachers will support May 8 by wearing red in their classrooms and teaching on that day," GSD Superintendent Matt Henry noted. "The Gervais Education Association will provide red t-shirts. If anyone wants to take the day off to join the march, they have to be sure to and take a personal day or a sick day with a legitimate appointment."

St. Paul School District Superintendent Joe Wehrli said May 8 will be a normal school day.

"St Paul will be running a regular day schedule on that day. Some of our teachers will be out in the afternoon to attend the rally in Salem, and the district has hired substitutes to cover those classes," Wehrli said.

WEA President Cherene Mills said the local chapter will actually hold two rallies that day: one locally, and one in conjunction with other districts in Salem.

"We will be at highways 214 and 99E on the morning of the 8th, then we'll plan to bus down to Salem for an afternoon rally at the (Oregon State) Capitol building," Mills said.

Other rallies planned for that day include one at Portland's Waterfront Park. Teachers across Oregon are conducting the one-day walkout to advocate for increased school funding after what they describe as years of disinvestment.

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Woodburn Education Association members rally in support of the Student Success Act at Highway 214 and Boones Ferry Road on Wednesday, May 1.

Woodburn School District Superintendent Chuck Ransom said last month that district officials have been monitoring the WEA's activity in order to prepare for a potential closure.

"Woodburn, like other smaller districts, is carefully monitoring the situation to try to anticipate what impact if any this will have on us," Ransom said via email on April 18 as districts throughout the state were discussing whether to take part in the May 8 event. "To be clear, those districts are not closing to specifically advocate or support any political purpose; they are closing because they've made a determination that it will not be safe for students because of anticipated staff shortages.

"Woodburn School District policy allows for such 'emergency school closures' as well, although these are most commonly associated with weather events, power outages, etc."

WEA, which has been visible on Wednesday afternoons with local rallies on Boones Ferry Road and 214 throughout April, did not vote to join the statewide May 8 event until May 1.

COURTESY OF WOODBURN EDUCATION ASSOCIATION - Woodburn Education Association members gather before attending a Presidents Day rally in February.

"Woodburn schools are chronically underfunded, and students are suffering because of it," said Mills, who teaches in the district. "Our classrooms are bursting at the seams, learning environments are disrupted, it is difficult to keep quality educators and our students are missing out on individual attention they deserve. We've had enough -- so we're standing up for students and taking action."

Mills juxtaposed a missed school day to what many educators regard as a weightier issue – a misfiring educational system.

"An unplanned day off of school is big deal for Woodburn's students and families," Mills said.

"We understand that closing schools May 8 has an impact on our students and families, and other staff. However, we consider the impact of closing schools as minimal compared to the ongoing, cumulative and harmful impact on the education of our students if schools continue to be underfunded."

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