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Cache students to return to class

CACHE  Cache students will return to the classroom Monday after a 10-day vacation.

The two weeks away from school campus wasn't originally part of the school calendar, but was rather the byproduct of a statewide teacher walkout that officially concluded Thursday. Even before the Oklahoma Education Association, which started the walkout April 2, announced its end, Superintendent Chad Hance met with his faculty and staff to make plans to resume school.

"We had the meeting Thursday morning with everyone," Hance said. "We hadn't made the decision yet, but I wanted to get all my staff together and talk about our options and what lies ahead of us."

The school district announced later in the day the decision for teachers and students to return to the classroom Monday to finish the remainder of the school year. An estimated 79 percent of the staff voted in a poll to conclude the walkout. Hance said teachers aren't returning without some reservations, but they understand an end had to come at some point.

"Of course, our teachers feel still frustrated and disappointed," he said. "I ensured them that their action did have a positive influence on us and our public education. They shouldn't hold their heads down. But we also have to regroup and refocus and we need to focus our attention on other threats we're facing."

Chief among those threats is a petition circulated by a group called "Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite," led by former Sen. Tom Coburn, which would put the tax increases included in HB 1010xx  the bill used to fund teacher pay raises and additional education funding  to the vote of the people by way of a rarely-used veto referendum. If the group receives the necessary 40,000 signatures, once the petition is approved, then the measure could be put on the ballot by the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

"That can be detrimental to us if it gets to a ballot and is approved by voters," Hance said. "We have to organize ourselves and get people out to vote and do what we can to ensure that measure is defeated."

As that threat looms in the future, teachers and students will resume classes with extended days to ensure the school year ends as originally scheduled on May 24. Hance knew the walkout was an inevitability earlier this year and he and the Cache Public Schools Board of Education agreed to add an additional hour to the school day. He said his district has been prepared for this fight long before the OEA made the walkout official on April 2.

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