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5 more Colorado Springs-area school districts cancel Friday classes

April 25, 2018 Updated: April 26, 2018 at 10:20 am
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Teachers hold placards during a rally outside the state Capitol, Monday, April 16, 2018, in Denver. Teachers from around the state were on hand to demand better salaries as lawmakers under the dome were set to debate a pension reform measure to cut retirement benefits as well as take-home pay. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Five more Pikes Peak region school districts have announced classes will be canceled Friday because of expected absences by teachers attending a rally in Denver for more education funding.

Academy School District 20, Lewis-Palmer School District 38, Cheyenne Mountain School District 12, Falcon School District 49 and Fountain Fort-Carson School District 8 announced cancellations by Wednesday, joining Colorado Springs School District 11 and Manitou Springs School District 14 along with others in the state.

In a letter sent to parents Tuesday night, D-20 Superintendent Mark Hatchell said nearly a quarter of the district’s teachers have said they will be absent Friday, presumably to attend the rally at the state Capitol.

The Colorado Education Association organized the demonstration to protest inadequate state funding for public education and possible changes to public employees’ pension benefits and payments. Up to 10,000 teachers are expected to take part.

“This is a response to the frustration of education being chronically underfunded by the state and education not being seen as a priority by the state Legislature,” said Kevin Vick, president of the Colorado Springs Education Association, the union for D-11 certified staff and the only collective-bargaining teachers’ group in the Pikes Peak region.

Hatchell and D-11 Superintendent Nicholas Gledich said the district doesn’t have enough substitutes to cover for all the absent teachers and had no choice but to cancel school

D-12 Superintendent Walt Cooper wrote in a letter to parents that the district thought it had enough substitutes to hold classes. By Wednesday, though, it was apparent that more teachers would be taking Friday off.

“As you are undoubtedly aware from numerous media reports, school districts up and down the Front Range are canceling classes for students on Friday, April 27, due to large-scale teacher absences associated with planned teacher rallies at the State Capitol,” Cooper wrote Wednesday. “It was my hope that we would be able to hold classes in D-12 as scheduled on Friday and limit disruptions to student learning and inconveniences to families.

“Up until this afternoon we had secured adequate substitute teachers and were on track to maintain Friday’s schedule. However, we are now faced with many more staff absences, for reasons beyond just the planned rallies, than we can effectively and safely cover, so we have no choice but to cancel classes for all students on April 27.”

Although students have the day off, D-11 and D-20 have scheduled professional workdays Friday for teachers who are not taking part in the rally.

Most districts have said extracurricular activities and athletic events will be held as planned, although participants were advised to check with their schools.

Air Academy High School also has canceled the unearthing of its 1998 time capsule, which was scheduled for Friday afternoon as part of the school’s 60th anniversary celebration.

“Because we aren’t having classes on Friday because of the high absence rate from the Denver rallies, the school and alumni association decided to postpone it so that all students can participate,” said D-20 spokeswoman Allison Cortez.

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