Medford family feels heat from the strike

, Written by Christine Pitawanich, Posted: Wed, February 5 2014 at 11:20 PM, Updated: Fri, February 7 2014 at 4:27 PM

Medford, Ore. -- Medford Education Association President Cheryl Lashley said in a press conference Wednesday night that the union is willing to negotiate with the district until 5:59 Thursday morning, before a strike begins at 6am.

What's next?

However, strike or no strike, there will be no school on Thursday for Medford School District students. If teachers take to the picket line, it's expected kids would have Friday and Monday off too.

Teachers demonstrated Wednesday night outside the district offices where negotiations were taking place.

Both sides say major sticking points over contracts remain specifically on pay, insurance and retirement benefits.

However, Superintendent Phil Long said the district simply cannot afford to make some concessions without students suffering.

"The board is committed to making decisions that are going to stabilize our finances for many years and ensure people that when they are hired to our district we will continue to keep them employed," said Long.

"The teachers have said it before we do not do this for the money. We do it for the kids which is why our settlement offer contained our proposal language on working conditions," Lashley said.

Medford families confused and stressed

Meanwhile, thousands of families are watching and waiting, unsure of how the strike will play out and affect kids in the classroom.

Parents told NBC 5 News that they're frustrated and scared about what happens next.

A strike would close certain schools to preserve resources, meaning that some kids would have to be bussed to other schools come Tuesday once class is expected to begin again.

The idea of going to a new school with a substitute teacher is a scary thought for two Roosevelt second graders.

"Makes me feel kind of unprotected in a new school and with a new teacher that I don't even know," said Malaya Wohosky, 2nd grader at Roosevelt Elementary School.

"I kind of feel sad that we're going to another school," said Lauren Parker who is also a 2nd grader at Roosevelt Elementary.

With information constantly changing, it's been a confusing process for many Medford parents.

"It's just been frustrating because I've been getting phone calls like automated messages from schools I've also been receiving letters almost daily starting Friday of last week," said Stephanie Hickerson, Lauren's mom.

She said she doesn't like the thought of her child, Lauren, having to go to Jackson Elementary instead of Roosevelt.

"She has a really hard time dealing with changes," said Hickerson.

Added to the stress, Lauren would have to take a bus she's never taken before.

"I don't know who's teaching my child, I don't know who's bussing her, I just feel frustrated at this point ... I feel really scared," Hickerson said.

The frustration and worry is spilling over and catching kids in the middle as teachers and the district continue their roughly year-long battle over teachers contracts.

"I feel kind of sad but at the same time stressed," said 8-year-old Malaya.

For more information:

Medford School District - http://www.medford.k12.or.us/

Medford Education Association - http://www.iteachmedford.org/

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About the Author

Christine Pitawanich

Christine Pitawanich was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. In 2010, she received a master's degree in Broadcast Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York.

Christine also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from the University of Washington.

Before joining the NBC5 News team, she had the opportunity to file reports from Washington D.C. for WFFT FOX Ft. Wayne News in Indiana. Christine has also interned at KOMO-TV in Seattle.

Christine loves to ski, try new food and have fun in the outdoors.

Catch Christine anchoring weekdays on NBC 5 News at 5pm.

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