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500 students at Cholla High Magnet School protest teacher layoffs

The signs that people are unhappy with more than 560 teacher layoffs next year are mounting in Tucson Unified School District.

On Tuesday morning more than 500 students at Cholla High Magnet School refused to go to classes and instead congregated outside the school at 2001 W. Starr Pass Blvd. and chanted “save our teachers.”

Across town at Van Horne Elementary, 7550 E. Pima St., parents of half the nearly 200 students at the school kept them home Tuesday.

And Tuesday night, scores of teachers and supporters are expected to be at a governing board meeting trying to speak at call to the audience.

TUSD spokeswoman Chyrl Hill Lander said the Cholla incident was “very peaceful and the kids were back in school by 10:30 a.m., about three hours after they started the sit-in.

Lander said school safety officials would be on alert for similar activities at other schools this week, but said she had not heard of anything else being planned.

She said she hopes there will not be.

“Certainly we want kids to stay in school. The administrators at Cholla encouraged students to go back in the classrooms and to write letters to the Governor instead of sitting outside and not accomplishing much,” she said.

The Cholla students not in their morning classes were marked absent, she said. The school has 1,658 students. Twenty teachers and four administrators there received layoff notices.

Rich Harkins, president of the Van Horne Parent-Teacher Organization, said keeping students home from school was an attempt “to send a message to whoever will listen that the allocation of funds to our school, and all schools, is inadequate.

“We had asked our parents to call the Governor and state Legislators and many have,” he said.

“But people are frustrated. People are angry. They feel powerless. Will (keeping children home) accomplish anything? Time will well,” he said. “But it did give people a voice.”

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