Gaylord News is a reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication

Gaylord News

Gaylord News is a reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication

Gaylord News

Gaylord News is a reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication

Gaylord News

OKCPS opens gymnasium for Oklahoma educators to stay in during Capitol walkout

To show support for the Oklahoma teacher walkout, Oklahoma City Public Schools invited educators from across the state to spend the night in the Capitol Hill High School Fieldhouse.

Volunteers from various organizations and donations from the community allowed OKCPS to host a cookout on the front lawn of the high school before the lock-in, and educators from around the area showed up to support their fellow teachers.

The OKCPS district reached out to Capitol Hill High School for the event, said Adam Jewell, Capitol Hill principal. The gymnasium can accommodate up to 400 people, and Jewell said that the gymnasium will be open as long as OKCPS continues to cancel schools.

“We’ve got showers in there, we’ve got places where they can stay, we rolled out the wrestling mats,” Jewell said. “It’s not the Ritz Carlton, but you know the fact of the matter is that it’s someplace where they can stay.”

Jewell said that the teacher lock-in is being funded by private organizations, and that the outpouring of resources has been “absolutely spectacular.”

Mark Mann, member of the Oklahoma City Board of Education, said that he called his friends to donate when he heard about the teacher lock-in. Over $1,600 was raised between the people that he called individually.

“The need, I think it just kind of came to light last week at the Capitol when so many teachers from outside of the district were driving 100 to 120 miles a day, and they were driving because they couldn’t afford a hotel room,” Mann said. “The gas was cheaper, so they were driving back and forth three hours, and so that’s kind of when it came to our attention, and we said ‘Let’s give them a place to stay.’”

Two of the donors, Tsinena Thompson and Pete Fulmer, said their reasons for donating was to support teachers.

“These are all of our citizens of tomorrow: It starts with teachers,” Thompson said.

They felt it was very important to ensure these educators were receiving support from the public.

“This is the most influential group of people in our society,” Fulmer said. “They affect everything that happens; and, if we don’t support them, we’re effectively not supporting what goes on in our state.”

VOICE, a coalition of churches, nonprofits, unions and worker associations, sent volunteers and donated water and granola bars to help with the lock-in. Sundra Flansburg, leader of the VOICE organization and mother of an OKCPS student, said she supported the walkout and that VOICE will lend a hand for however long they are needed.

“We’re here mostly because we love teachers – teachers are a part of our organization – and we’re thrilled that they’re standing together and fighting for our kids,” Flansburg said.

Cheryl Brouwer, a sixth-grade teacher at Buchanan Elementary in the OKCPS system, attended the cookout before the lock-in and said that she supports the walkout because teachers are fighting for their students.

“We’re just here supporting the teachers that came out and need a place to be, and (we) just like the comaradery and getting together,” Brouwer said.

Brouwer said that, just as police officers are not expected to go out into the field without the proper tools, teachers should not be expected to teach without the proper equipment as they are in Oklahoma today.

“We are here trying to make sure that we have everything those kids need in the classroom to become citizens of this country, of this state, and better people all the way around, and we need help doing that,” Brouwer said. “Money, unfortunately, is the thing we need to get that done.”

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