Grand Canyon High School track and field athletes will travel more than four hours next weekend for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Seven boys and seven girls will get on a bus with dreams of winning a medal at state in Mesa.
If the teachers’ walkout continues, the school is committed to getting the Phantoms there.
“With all this success, the athletes deserve the opportunity to compete,” Grand Canyon High track coach Elna Perkins said. “The administration at Grand Canyon High School has said they will support the team, including running buses to pick kids up for practice when there is not school and busing the team to the state meet.
“The teacher walkout should not punish the students by infringing upon their activities. At our school site, we have many coaches who are not teachers, but community members. If the walkout was during their sport, they would be allowed to coach anyway and so am I.”
Tens of thousands of teachers walked out of class Thursday and marched on the state Capitol demanding higher pay and increased education funding. Gov. Doug Ducey announced a deal on social media late Friday, but provided no details. Teachers and supporters have said they plan to continue their protests on Monday.
Most of the teams still playing at state – some, such as boys volleyball teams that still have regular-season games left to play this week – are led by teachers who support the #RedForEd movement that closed down schools Thursday and Friday and this Monday.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association stated last week that it wasn’t interrupting its state tournaments until the walkout ended because it is financially invested in holding sites at certain times and can’t change that.
Teams that don’t show up for state games will forfeit and the other teams will move forward in the brackets.
“The walkout impacts me the same as all other teachers from an educational standpoint,” said Chandler girls track coach Eric Richardson, whose team will try to defend its state title on Wednesday and Saturday at Mesa Community College. “I stand firm with the rest of my colleagues.
“I am a devoted educator who strongly believes in our cause. At the same time, I trust in our school district to give us the latitude to explore all things that will make our profession better. I work for the most supportive district in the state, if not in the country. Their undying support and resources have made it possible for our program to flourish and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I am still getting our student-athletes ready for the state meet.”