INDIANAPOLIS — Metropolitan School District of Pike Township students did not attend classes on Wednesday.
The district announced in a Facebook post just after 5:30 a.m. that all Pike Township schools would be closed for in-person and virtual learning on Nov. 10 due to "the number of instructional staff absences."
"We understand that this is a serious hardship for many families and do not make this decision lightly," the district said in the Facebook post. "Offering in-person instruction for our students who selected that learning option is a priority."
Teachers and the district have been in negotiations since September. They are currently at an impasse and will enter mediation next week.
A spokesperson with Pike Classroom Teachers Association said they do not support teachers calling “out sick” and did not organize any absences on Wednesday.
“We are a very high-performing urban school district. We should be the beacon of how it’s done,” said Mike Bankert, the treasurer of the Pike Classroom Teachers Association. “You look at the schools, especially on the north side of Marion County, we know the deals coming in and right now we are the outlier.”
In the past two months, the district has closed school three times – twice because of a bus driver shortage and on Wednesday because of teacher absences. There have also been two school delays because of transportation issues.
“It snowballs into not just the kids missing school today, but what else are they missing? They are missing a lot more than just a day of school,” said parent Amber Griffey. “Definitely frustration and borderline anger because something’s got to give.”
For parents like Griffey, these last-minute changes are frustrating, wanting the best education for her kids.
“It’s more than just my kids missing out on an education today and what does tomorrow bring, but also what about those kids that rely on school for more than just their education,” Griffey said.
She’s not alone.
Other parents are fed up with the district and recent changes this year. Parents like Brittany Miller said they are questioning whether to keep their kids in the township.
“Sometimes I feel like a failure as a parent because I decided to move in Pike and then I feel like Pike is failing all the students, not just my son,” Miller said.
The teachers association said they worry more teachers will go to other districts if they can’t reach a fair deal.
“We not only have to attract new teachers, but we have to keep those that are loyal and certified,” Bankert said. “Our kids deserve the best. They deserve the ‘A’ team out there in the classroom and that’s what we care about.”
The teachers and the district will go into mediation starting Monday.
“All these other school districts have done this. They’ve made deals that make sense for both sides. I think we just need to set down with our mediator and get this done,” Bankert said.
The district said they will make up the day on their built-in "flex day" on March 25.
"We will continue to keep families updated on school calendar changes and we will do everything that is appropriate to address these disruptions," the district said in their statement. "We apologize for the short notice, and thank you for your understanding as we keep adequate supervision and safety of our students and staff a priority. "
The Indiana State Teachers Association said they stand by PCTA. They plan to give an update next week on Indiana's starting teacher salary goals.
“Educators on bargaining teams across the state have put in substantial effort to ensure teachers at all experience levels receive the pay increases they deserve. We stand by our local associations as they fight hard for professional pay for educators – that’s what will ensure we have the most qualified teachers in the classroom for our kids,” said Jennifer Smith-Margraf, ISTA vice president.
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