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Iowa students stage sit-in over proposed cuts

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COLUMBUS JUNCTION, Iowa (AP) — Students at Columbus Junction High School took a stand for their teachers by sitting out classes.

Nearly all of the school's 225 students participated in a sit-in Friday, skipping early classes to gather at the school's gym in a show of support for their teachers who face losing their jobs next year to budget cuts, the Muscatine Journal reported (http://bit.ly/WcM5Fk).

The sit-in came in response to a measure approved Monday by the school board to eliminate up to 13 positions — a move projected to save the school district $461,639.

Superintendent Marlene Johnson said the school is facing a $450,000 budget shortfall next year.

The school board's plan would eliminate teaching positions in elementary school, high school math, halftime high school Spanish and physical education, as well as some para-educator, secretarial and counselor positions.

When principal Jeff Maeder learned of the sit-in, he declared the gathering an assembly and allowed the students to voice their concerns.

More than 75 students took turns speaking for two hours, with many concerned about the futures of husband-and-wife duo Deb Carlson, who teaches math, and physical education and athletic director Nate Carlson.

Martha Anaya, a junior, wore a homemade shirt that read "Save the Carlsons," and held back tears as she spoke about their contributions to the school.

At the end of the assembly, organizer Kenan Todd, a junior, handed Johnson and Maeder a petition signed by students asking the school board to rescind the cuts.

"I'll let the school board know we got the petition, and we'll make a decision from the input," Johnson said. "And sometimes we have to make decisions that are not always popular."

Johnson said she'll meet with the school district attorney and teachers association before determining which teachers could lose their jobs. She has until April 30 to decide.

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Information from: Muscatine Journal, http://www.muscatinejournal.com

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