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School ‘Almost Back to Normal’ After Walkout

Times Staff Writer

One week after the end of the bitter Los Angeles teachers’ strike, the halls of Le Conte Junior High School were abuzz once again with the sounds of history and geometry lessons filtering through half-opened classroom doors.

“I don’t think about the strike anymore,” said seventh-grader Tanya Chavez, 13, as she walked to class Friday morning. “It’s like it never happened.”

While the regular routine of school activities has resumed at Le Conte, normalcy in other areas may be a long time coming.

Resentment Beginning to Subside

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Among teachers, resentment is just now beginning to subside between those who went on strike and those who crossed the picket lines. Students are cramming to make up for lost time, in some cases doing twice the usual homework. And administrators are rushing to meet end-of-the-term budgetary deadlines and to prepare for graduation ceremonies.

“Things are almost back to normal,” said history teacher Akop Terastvadsadrian, 29. “Everybody’s involved with teaching, student absences are down and we’re picking up where we left off.”

Like other teachers, he noted that students returned to classes with renewed enthusiasm after spending the strike doing little more than busy work. Terastvadsadrian said he has taken advantage of the new attitude, giving his students twice the usual work.

“On the first day back, we hit the ground running,” he said. “I tried to make my students understand it’s for their own future.”

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Some teachers, however, complained that the disruption of normal schedules, coupled with a distracting end-of-the-year anticipation, has made it harder to get kids to settle down to schoolwork.

“Two weeks is a lot of time to make up,” said math department Chairman Nader Delnavaz, 28. Sometimes, he said, it is impossible. Students received only a day’s notice for a statewide algebra and geometry examination that normally takes two weeks of preparation, he said.

“I don’t expect they did very well,” he said.

Still, added Principal David Sowers, “we’re in as good a shape as could be expected.”

‘Rush Like Crazy’

Sowers and his assistants have “had to rush like crazy” to complete the myriad details for graduation activities and awards ceremonies, including the selection of students for the awards and the purchase of school trophies.

“I don’t want the kids to feel shorted and then blame it on their teachers,” he said.

Some teachers contend that the strike has made students and administrators appreciate them more. And others, noting that the school’s year-round schedule keeps some teachers from getting to know one another, say the strike has improved camaraderie among those who walked the picket lines.

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Even the tension that characterized relations a week ago between the striking teachers and those who never left the classroom has ebbed, according to most instructors. On the first day back at school, Terastvadsadrian said he turned away when a teacher who had crossed the picket lines greeted him in the faculty cafeteria.

“I was very angry. I thought there were some people I’d never want to talk to or see again,” he recalled.

Although he remains “disappointed” by colleagues who stayed in school, Terastvadsadrian shared a table in the cafeteria Thursday with the school nurse and another teacher. Both had crossed the picket lines.

“We have to work together for the sake of our students,” he said.


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