Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Students urge Central Valley school board to avoid teacher layoffs

By Nina Culver and Treva Lind The Spokesman-Review

Nearly 30 Ridgeline High School students stood outside in the rain Monday evening to protest Central Valley School District’s recent notice that 90 teachers might not have jobs next year.

Nine of those teachers facing potential layoffs are at Ridgeline, said organizers Paige Van Buren, a Ridgeline junior, and Adelaide Parsons, a senior.

“We were angry and sad,” said Van Buren.

Key among their concerns was the loss of the teacher who runs the theater and choir programs.

Parsons, who is in the school’s musical “Wizard of Oz,” worried that such a loss would end the programs at the high school.

At the end of the school board meeting, Superintendent John Parker assured students the programs wouldn’t be cut.

“This is not the case,” Parker said. “The programs will and must remain at the school.”

In a letter to parents last week, Parker announced that nearly 90 teachers have been informed that they may not have a job next year. The district had hired staff using temporary COVID-19 relief funding known as Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief.

“We understood that these one-time ESSER funds would sunset, and we would need to move back to sustainable pre-pandemic funding and staffing levels,” Parker wrote. “The time for readjusting the budget and staffing levels has come.”

The students met just before 6 p.m. and held signs and waved at drivers passing the intersection of Molter Road and Appleway Avenue in Liberty Lake. Most of the group then went into the nearby CVSD Learning and Teaching Center for Monday’s 6:30 p.m. CVSD board meeting.

Smaller groups, including at least two parents along with younger siblings, gathered at two other corners and waved. Several drivers honked in support.

Ethan Call, a Ridgeline sophomore, said the cuts would affect two programs important to him and other students.

“At Ridgeline, some of the best teachers I’ve ever had are being cut simply because they’re new teachers,” Call said.

Other signs held by students read: “Students stand with teachers,” “No teachers no programs,” “Save Ridgeline arts,” “Do the math: no teachers no programs.”

Van Buren and Parsons spread news of the protest on social media. Van Buren has also written to government officials.

“I actually talked to Mike Padden over the phone,” she said, referring to the Republican state senator from Spokane Valley. “I got a response from Governor Inslee’s staff by email.”

Van Buren was happy with the student turnout Monday.

“This was good,” she said. “The energy was good and every school board member had to drive past us to go to the meeting, so they saw us.”

Student Jacob Warden said last week’s announcement has caused him to experience shock, disappointment, anger and grief. He questioned why temporary funding was used to hire teachers .

“I don’t think new teachers should suffer because the district can’t properly allocate funds,” he said. “I urge you to look at other options and hear the community out.”

Parker thanked the students for their “articulate and passionate” statements as they advocated for their teachers and their school. He said the district has to honor its agreement with the union, which requires that teachers be cut based on seniority. But he noted final decisions on job losses have not been made.

“We would prefer not to lose any staff,” he said. “There’s a lot of moving pieces that have to be addressed. There’s a lot more yet to come.”

If enrollment goes up in the fall, teachers can be brought back, Parker said. Teachers who are laid off will also have the chance to become substitute teachers in the district.

“We are very mindful of the loss of staff and the impact on students,” Parker said. “Our goal will be to bring back as many as possible.”

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.