Seniors bemoan strike’s impact

June 26th, 2015 3:16 am - updated: 3:16 am.

First Posted: 9/11/2013

WEST PITTSTON — A teacher strike’s impact can adversely affect seniors by putting college acceptance and funding at risk, two officers of Wyoming Area Student Council said Wednesday after joining the teacher picket line on the seventh day of a union strike.

“We just want the strike to be over,” Student Council Vice President Katherine Sokirka said as teachers walked past with signs outside Montgomery Avenue Elementary School. “Seniors want to be able to finish their Advanced Placement courses on time and get their letters of recommendation for early acceptance” in college.

The AP courses, designed to challenge students at a college level and considered favorably in college application screenings, have one immutable test date, Sokirka said. If the strike lasts the full month that it legally can, students will be at a huge disadvantage in trying to master the material in time to score well, she said.

And the district’s Secondary Center is a hot spot for AP classes, Student Council Secretary Emily Bellanco added. She is taking four courses this year, while Sokirka is taking three, and “some kids take six.”

The most immediate impact is that “teachers can’t write letters of recommendation” during the strike, Sokirka said. “And seniors have a better chance of getting into their chosen college if they apply for early acceptance. They also have a better chance at getting financial aid.”

The duo also noted the strike curtails any participation in clubs and most other extracurricular activities — another part of student portfolios routinely scrutinized by college admissions officers. Sokirka said she belongs to, among others, the history club, and that a month-long strike will hurt the school’s chances in the annual History Bowl competition. If the strike lasts long enough, the school might not be compete at all.

Bellanco said it also hurts the students who compete in the spring Science Olympiad; she’s been a participant for years. “We’d be putting the team together right now,” she said. “Usually we’re ready to go by Christmas.”

Sokirka plans to major in biology at Bucknell University, while Bellanco is heading to Wilkes University’s pharmacy program, and both said there’s one more thing the strike is stealing: reunion with friends, including teachers, showing up for support at sport events, which are still being held.

“Wyoming Area is like one big family,” Sokirka said.

Union President Melissa Dolman said there have been no contract negotiations, or even discussion of setting up a session, since the strike began.

“We are always ready to talk,” she added as the seniors joined the picket march.