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Tech Center remains open but has several empty seats

Great Plains Technology Center has remained open to adults and students from local and rural schools despite the teacher walkout that began April 2, but attendance has been down.

This week, morning attendance was down 57 percent, and afternoon attendance saw a 48 percent decrease, according to Glen Boyer, director of marketing and communication, who said courses are offered twice a day, and students attend either in the morning or afternoon.

Great Plains Technology Center has two locations  Lawton, 4500 W. Lee, and Frederick, 2001 E. Gladstone  which offer classes to students from Lawton Public Schools and 10 area schools.

Buses from rural schools such as Cache have continued to drive students from school campus to Great Plains while some students with their own vehicles have taken initiative to drive themselves.

However, other students had no way to get to Great Plains; those students who missed class due to lack of transportation will not be penalized, and such absences will be treated as activity absences, Boyer said. 

Students are responsible for catching up on the work they missed when they return to class, he said, just as the students would if they were absent for a sporting event, band concert or other extracurricular activity.

Boyer said Great Plains stayed open in the wake of the walkout because adults are also enrolled in the classes.

Only four of Great Plain's  20 programs are exclusively for high school students. The other 16 programs also have adults.

"Those programs were required to remain open to get the adult students their minimum number of clock hours to continue receiving their federal financial aid," Boyer said.

Several Great Plains instructors, though still teaching courses, have supported the teacher walkout by traveling to the Capitol and rallying alongside local teachers. 

Instructor Amy Jenkins organized an Indian taco fundraiser in Elgin over the weekend, selling over 300 tacos and collecting over $4,000, which was donated to teachers who needed money for fuel, food and hotel stays while at the Capitol. 

Jenkins said educators, parents and supporters from different school districts, including Elgin, Central, Cache and Apache, helped with the fundraiser.

The teacher walkout was a huge movement in the right direction, Jenkins said. 

"Our education system in Oklahoma has taken a backseat, and it's not fair to the students," she said. "We just want educators to keep fighting for our kids."

That doesn't always have to mean going back to the Capitol  "it's just showing up and loving them (students)," she added.

To Jenkins, being a teacher encompasses more than teaching science, math, English or another subject.

"Being a teacher is getting to know your kids and supporting them," she said. "It's like a family."

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