- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) - Schools in southern Oregon’s largest district reopened Tuesday with shorter hours and substitutes in the classrooms for striking teachers.

Substitutes hired by the Medford School District were transported from hotels in buses with windows lined with paper to protect their identities, the Mail Tribune newspaper reports (https://is.gd/AY1A7H ). The teachers were given white posters to shield their identities from pickets as they entered the schools.

Superintendent Phil Long said the district expected 50 to 60 percent of the district’s 13,500 students to return to school on the first day of classes since teachers went on strike Thursday. Attendance at some schools exceeded that threshold, he said at a news conference.

Hired from cities throughout the state, the substitutes worked with lesson plans left behind by teachers who didn’t want their students to fall behind during the strike.

On the picket line, teachers told the newspaper it was “sad,” ”heartbreaking” and “gut-wrenching” to see their students return to school without them.

“You can’t have quality education, when quality education is walking the sidewalk,” said Cindy Woodard, a fifth-grade teacher at Oak Grove Elementary.

At Howard Elementary, about 15 pickets sang “This Little Light of Mine” when the substitutes arrived. Some stood in front of a bus for a few seconds before stepping aside to let it pass.

Contract talks were scheduled to resume Wednesday with a state mediator. The district and the union that represents about 600 teachers have been unable to agree on salary, working conditions and retirement benefits.

Parents, meanwhile, said they simply hope for a resolution.

“It’s a messed-up deal for parents and kids,” said Jack Mitchell, who was dropping off his fourth-grade son at Oak Grove. The family recently moved, and Tuesday was the boy’s first day at the new school.

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Information from: Mail Tribune, https://www.mailtribune.com/

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