MONTICELLO — When legislators return to the Indiana Statehouse on Nov. 19 for a one-day session to organize for the upcoming General Assembly, they’ll be greeted by thousands of teachers from around the state.
At least 54 of those will be educators from Twin Lakes schools.
The district is planning to close Nov. 19 so educators may attend a Red for Ed rally in Indianapolis, where teachers will lobby lawmakers for better pay and working conditions.
The rally is being organized by the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA), which is encouraging its members to take a personal day to attend with, as of Thursday night, 6,000-plus colleagues to lobby legislators for higher salaries, a repeal of new professional development requirements and a change in teacher evaluations tied to standardized test results.
But the Red for Ed rally event poses a challenge for schools – a lack of available classroom teachers and substitutes for that day. Many Indiana school districts are either using eLearning days, declaring it a professional development day or simply closing.
“I do not see any way for us to run a school (that day),” Twin Lakes Superintendent Michael Galvin told the school board Thursday night during a work session. “Some of those 54 people are people our principals go to when (the school district) is in desperate need (of substitute teachers).”
The Indiana Department of Education allows school districts statewide to provide alternative methods of instruction during inclement weather or emergency situations. During eLearning days, students do not physically attend school but complete the necessary school work via online.
“First of all, (the rally) does not meet the state guidelines of what an eLearning day should be used for,” he said. “Another concern I have is state legislators are going to watch this very closely. I could easily see them coming out and saying, ‘You can’t have (any more) eLearning days’ as an option going forward.”
School board secretary Scott Andrews said some legislators feel schools are taking advantage of eLearning days.
“I think they’re looking very closely at the idea that maybe they need to start monitoring what’s going on,” he said. “To use (Nov. 19) as an eLearning day is a bad idea just because it doesn’t look right.”
Galvin said teachers are available to students via email between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on eLearning days. If the school board were to designate Nov. 19 as such, there is no way for teachers to participate in the Red for Ed rally and simultaneously be available to students.
He plans to issue a closure announcement for Nov. 19 via the school district’s website and social media channels.
“We want to give parents as much advance warning as possible,” he said.
Galvin said ISTA has offered to reimburse school districts for transportation costs to the event that would cover the cost of gas and a driver.
The school board must choose a make-up date, Galvin said, which could be two scheduled off days (Feb. 14 or Feb. 17), or another day at the end of the school year. That decision most likely will happen at 7 p.m. Nov. 12 during its regular meeting at the school corporation office on South Main Street.