Whittier Elementary School and new neighbor Marie Curie STEM Elementary School remained closed Wednesday on what would have been the sixth day of classes for the Pasco School District.
But Highland Park across the street was anything but quiet.
Members of the Chiawana High marching band warmed their trumpets, clarinets and saxophones, then began practicing songs and formations on a hastily painted football field.
The drum line practiced briefly in the shade of a tree before joining the rest of the band. Color guard members went over techniques and routines.
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Some had to find other instruments to use because their usual ones remain locked up at the high school as a result of the ongoing teachers strike.
The Pasco School District has closed its 21 schools since the strike started Sept. 1, as contract negotiations with teachers continue.
Sports teams have kept up with practices and games, albeit off school property, as the district has a separate agreement with its coaches. But extracurricular activities such as marching band and the performing arts are left waiting to officially start until the strike ends.
Teachers and other instructors aren’t allowed to work with them, and they can’t practice on school grounds.
The practices weren’t organized when the strike began, though some students had made plans to get together. Members of the drum line actually took their drums and other equipment home just before the strike so they could continue to practice.
After a few days, though, music section leaders and other students decided they needed to work together.
“I kind of just said we need to do something, we need to organize a practice,” said Sammi Hargan, section leader for the clarinet players.
Junior Landyn Curley, 16, and a drumline member, said he and others scouted locations and found Highland Park, complete with most of the grid lines to practice their marching and received city permission to use it.
Last minute phone calls and messages posted through social media led to the first student-organized practice Friday. They broke for the Labor Day weekend but were back at it on Tuesday.
“They focus on details, and we’re just trying to not fall behind,” said senior Maricela Perez, 17, co-captain of the color guard.
But with practices scheduled almost every day, they’re prepared to march on their own as long as the strike continues.
“In situations like this it really shows who the leaders are,” said parent Kim Brown, as she watched her freshman son, Devon, at Wednesday’s practice.
Parents, including Brown, take kids to practice. Organizations and other schools outside of Pasco have helped out with instruments.
The strike hasn’t led to an ideal situation, the students said. Landyn said they’ll “just be happy to get back to school so we can get back together. We’re a family.”
But they’re supportive of their teachers who have helped them get to this point.
“For something we’ve never encountered before, we’ve really stepped up,” Sammi said.