Updated as of 11 a.m. 03.16.18

Updates include
- prom - it's a go
- ACT - it's a go

What is the difference between a walkout and a strike?

State law forbids teachers to strike against their local school boards. This is why the boards must show their support for the various plans - from sending delegations to Oklahoma City, or closing campuses - before the teachers walk out.

What are the teachers asking for?

Patsy Wilhelm, president of the Grove Classroom Teachers Association, said teachers - especially those living in a boarder community - simply want to be paid a living wage, similar to those within their region.

Wilhelm said teachers in northwest Arkansas, southwest Missouri and southeast Kansas, all have positions which either pay competitive wages or provide good retirement benefits.

She estimates the state is at least $6,000 behind in giving teachers a cost of living raise, and $10,000 behind when it comes to paying a salary that is equal to the regional average.

Wilhelm said a beginning teacher makes an average of $41,000 in Arkansas. She, with 33 years of experience, makes around $44,000 (including benefits.) She said it's frustrating to have experience, and be only $3,000 ahead of a first year teacher in northwest Arkansas.

Statewide, officials with the Oklahoma Education Association, are also calling for increased funding for education across the board, as well as raises for the state's education support staff.

What's going to happen on April 2

Classes will be canceled within the Grove School System on April 2, with the closure lasting for up to 24 additional days.

On April 2, Wilhelm said Grove teachers plan to charter a bus, and travel as a group to Oklahoma City to be in front of the legislators.

Wilhelm said plans after April 2 may include sending teachers on a daily basis to the capitol, as well as potential demonstrations within Grove.

Superintendent Sandy Coaly agreed with Wilhelm saying the district may send small groups, or delegations to the the capitol every day after April 2, depending upon what actions the legislators take.

A staff meeting after spring break is set to take place, to determine what teachers will do during the walk out, if it becomes necessary.

What have Grove teachers already done?

Coaly said members of the GCTA and others have written letters and cards to numerous legislators concerning the need to fund education, as well as teacher raises.

What happened in the 1990 walk out?

Wilhelm, who began teaching in Grove in 1984, was a first grade teacher in 1990. She remembers how all of the teachers "called in sick" on the first day, a Monday, with classes out the following three days.

Approximately 145 district shut down for the four days, to protest what were then considered some of the lowest salaries in the nation.

Then Gov. Henry Bellmon signed House Bill 1017, which mandated class sizes for kindergarten to sixth grade, put an end to county superintendents, and allowed for early childhood for 4-year-olds.

Wilhelm said she remembers teachers calling in sick and traveling to the capitol, by either their own personal vehicles or a bus.

Will teachers be paid during the walkout?

Coaly said teachers will be paid, as long as the district fulfills the required 1080 hours, needed for instruction, after the walk out.

"They will still get their checks, and we will add additional days to the school year," Coaly said.

What about school support workers?

Support workers are paid by the hour, many of whom work a nine or 12 month contract.

Coaly said all 12 month employees will continue to work. Other members of the support staff - those who work directly with students - will work the first four days of the walk out, because that allows them to make up the four missed days from inclement weather.

"There are several things they can do to help the principals," Coaly said.

After the four days, those support staff members will be asked to stop working, because they will be needed as days are made up at the end of the year.

"I do not want anyone cheated out of the money they thought they were going to get at the beginning of the school year," Coaly said, adding she wants to make sure her support staff receive their salaries.

What does the support staff think?

Patty Betts, president of the Grove Employee Support Personnel Association, said her members voted during a meeting on Tuesday, March 13, to support the district's teachers.

"We're not happy about it," Betts said, of the potential closure, "but we're going along with them."

Betts said the support personnel wanted to take a unified stand, along with the district's certified personnel (teachers), because OEA's demands also include a $5,000 raise for support staff.

"This is new territory," Betts said. "We don't know what we're doing. It's definitely a 'wait and see' moment."

Betts said her staff members with students are concerned about the walk out's impact on the school year, while others are worried about what their May checks will look like.

"Something's got to give," Betts said. "There are too many unknowns. Some questions can't be answered until we are there."

What about the April 3 ACT test?

On April 3, Grove's juniors are scheduled to take the ACT. Taking either the ACT or the SAT, depending upon the district's preference, is a requirement for all juniors in the state of Oklahoma.

Grove High School Principal Renaé Dozier said plans are in place for the ACT to take place regardless, of the walkout. There is a makeup date of Saturday, April 24, already on the calendar. (Updated 11 a.m. 03.16.18)

How will days be made up?

Coaly said all days missed during the walkout will be added to the end of the school year. One planned day off, scheduled for later in April, may be used as a make up day depending on if the walkout is over. 

What about graduation, prom?

Coaly said graduation will take place as scheduled at 3 p.m., Sunday, May 20, at Ridgerunner Stadium, regardless.

A decision about prom, was made after the Friday, March 16 print edition went to press. Coaly said prom will take place as scheduled on Saturday, April 21. 

How does this impact seniors?

Coaly said the deadlines for most scholarships for seniors take place prior to the April 2 deadline. 

She said members of the high school's team will work with every senior, as needed, to ensure they have what they need for scholarships and college admission.

Seniors will be asked to return to school, after graduation, to complete all requirements - including any final tests.

"We'll play it by ear," Coaly said. "We'll wait and see how many days we may miss."

What about school testing?

Coaly said she is working with Tonya Goldner, the district's testing coordinator, to develop a plan to complete state testing after the walk out.

She said 95-percent of the state's school districts must complete the testing, or the state risks losing federal funding.

"There's no school in the state of Oklahoma who can afford to lose federal money," Coaly said. (11 a.m. 03.16.18)

What about extra curricular activities/sports?

On Wednesday evening, Coaly announced high school extra curricular activities - ranging from spring athletics to the the state speech and debate competitions - will take place as scheduled.

Coaly said most superintendents within the state, including a majority of those within Grove's conference, plan to allow extra curricular activities to take place at the high school level.

"I've thought a lot about high school extra curricular activities today," Coaly said. "It's not the students' fault that we are doing this." 

Coaly said she does not want to stand in the way of a senior, who has the potential to win awards at the state level, from being a contender. 

"We love the kids and are doing what we are doing, because of them," Coaly said, saying teachers are struggling to find a balance between standing up for education and serving their students.

Teachers and coaches are paid for the work completed during those times through the "extra duty pay" above and beyond their salary.

Coaly said a decision about the middle school's participation in the State Science Fair, set for the first week of April, has not been finalized.

Grove's Middle School has a track record of wining the team award at the competition for the past 15 years. Coaly said she hopes to come up with a plan to allow students to participate in the event.

What about families with vacation planned/paid already on the calendar?

Coaly said she hates that some parents may have already planned, or paid for vacations, based on the initial school calendar.

She said parents will need to decide what is best for their family, if the district makes up days into June.

"They should make sure their child attends school as much as possible, in case they need to miss at the end," Coaly said. "They want to make sure their children have the best attendance as possible."

What about court-ordered visitation issues?

Coaly said if the walk out takes place, and dates are added to the end of the school year, school administrators will provide documentation, as needed, for parents having issues with court-ordered, date-specific visitation.

What is happening in the community?

In her speech to the Grove School Board, community member, and parent, Christy Wright talked about the strength which lies within the Grove community at large.

"We live in a great community who will step up, and be supportive [of the teachers and students]," Wright said, adding the community is full of "positive people."

Wright, who co-chairs the Grow With Grove initiative, said a meeting will take place in the next two weeks to determine if a charitable fund will be established to help support staff members and others in the event of a walk out.

"We are the type of community who will step up to the plate and take care of our own," Wright said. "We will get through this."

• Grand Lake YMCA

Members of the Grove YMCA board of directors were scheduled to meet on Thursday, March 15, to discuss plans for the potential walk out.

Butch Christy, executive director for the YMCA, said because the Y's program is licensed through the state's Department of Human Services, they are limited to a total of 70 students.

Currently there are 44 students in the after school program. Christy said if staff is available, the program could be extended an additional 26 students. The Y's program is also limited to students between the ages of 5 to 12.

Christy said during the summer, the Y can run an all-day program, because many of its employees are college students home for the summer. 

He said turning the after school program into an all-day session, if the walk out happens, may be difficult because most of the current employees - who have been approved through DHS screenings - attend college classes during the day.

"There are lots of questions, we don't have the answers for yet," Christy said.  

• Grove Backpack program

Randy Matthews, youth pastor at First United Methodist Church in Grove, and one of the directors of the Grove Backpack program, said he will meet with others from the church's staff on Friday, to discuss what the Backpack program needs to do, in the event of a walk out. 

"We, like other church staffs, have to wrap our mind around it, and see what everyone is capable of," Matthews said. "We definitely want to do something. There are so many things to think, or chart out."

• Grove Ministerial Alliance

Rev. Ron Riley, pastor at First Christian Church, and president of the Grove Ministerial Alliance, said the alliance plans to meet on Wednesday, March 21, to begin an association wide discussion about the walk out, and what various churches can do to support the students in the community.

He, like Matthews, wants to find a way to ensure students' needs concerning food, as well as having a safe place to go during the school day are met. 

"We want to be part of the solution," Riley said, adding he encourages anyone with ideas to talk with their pastor, who in turn can bring the ideas to next week's meeting.