Dozens of protestors lined 71st Street in Tulsa in support of the statewide teacher walkout on Monday. KASSIE McCLUNG/The Frontier

Liz Wright quickly walked through the dining hall at Jenks High School, stopping only briefly to answer the occasional question from a volunteer.

“Crisis averted,” she said after she solved one problem and made her way to the next.

Wright, who teaches marketing to ninth graders, arrived at the school at 5:30 Monday morning, but she wasn’t there for class.

The school’s campus was empty except for the dining hall, which buzzed with dozens of volunteers stuffing white plastic bags with nonperishable foods.

On Monday, schools across Oklahoma shut down and thousands of teachers headed to the state Capitol to rally. Meanwhile, hundreds of people in the Tulsa area supported the movement from home.

Many, equipped with clever signs, lined busy Tulsa streets to protest. Some delivered food to students and their families. Others provided daycare services for working parents who depend on schools to keep their children during the day.

“Basically, we have kids that are missing out on free breakfast and free lunches,” Wright said. “It takes a village to raise these kids and we really are a big family, and we try to take care of ourselves. We’re just trying to help each other.”

Wright, who is also a board member of the Jenks Community Food Bank, organized the effort to provide food to the district’s students and support staff. She spent much of her spring break and weekend collecting food and trying to figure out who would need it.

Just after 10 a.m., long tables stacked with hundreds of plastic bags crowded the school’s lunch room. Included in those sacks: a can of ravioli, a box of cheese crackers, a fruit cup and a packet of Pop-Tarts.

The district is prepared to provide food again on Thursday if schools are still closed, Wright said. It’s uncertain how long the walkout will last. Several school districts, including Jenks, have announced they will be closed Tuesday.

Nearly one-third of students in Jenks Public Schools are on free or reduced lunch, Wright said. And the district’s support staff, who are paid hourly, did not plan their budget around schools being closed for the walkout.

“We’re not going to turn kids down,” Wright said. “If somebody is hungry, we’re going to feed them.”

* * *

Near the leasing office of an apartment complex in Jenks, Keli LeMaster huddled by a car with her two daughters, Macy and Sally. More than 15 volunteers gathered to hand out bags of food to students.

LeMaster, an administrative assistant at Jenks Public Schools, said she wanted to help the community. Some of her job deals with enrollment, and she sees the number of kids who depend on school for breakfast and lunch.

Andrea Bubert, teaching and learning specialist at Jenks Public Schools, loads food out of a car to hand out to students. KASSIE McCLUNG/The Frontier

“We’re very fortunate to have a warm home and plenty of food,” she said. “Today was my normal grocery shopping day so, I thought, ‘I think I can put that off and go help.’”

Macy is a seventh grader at Jenks Middle School. She would rather be in school with her friends.

“I just hope we’re not out for too long. I just hope we’re maybe going back this week,” she said.

While waiting for students to come get sacks of food, LeMaster and Andrea Bubert, a teaching and learning specialist at Jenks, wondered how long schools would be closed. They talked about the protest happening at the Capitol.

“I hope it makes a difference,” Bubert said.

* * *

Tulsa was overcast and unseasonably cold on Monday, but not too chilly to stop people from demonstrating their support for the walkout.

Along 71st Street, the busiest stretch of the city, supporters lined the sidewalks holding signs with messages of approval.

“Gov. Fallin you go back to work,” one sign said. “Teachers are doing their jobs. Now you do yours.”

Another sign said: “Do what’s right for Okla. education or we will. On election day drain the swamp!”

Susan Waldie, a clerk at Tulsa Public Schools, stood along 71st Street bundled in a coat and beanie. She held a Star Wars-themed fishing pole. At the end of the pole: a balloon with a sign taped to it that said, “School funding still in crisis.”

“I thought, what can I do that’s creative,” Waldie said. “And so our funding’s floating away. We’re like, staff and the teachers, are like balloons. Where’s the solid ground? Where is education funding coming from? It’s not some magical thing that just going to appear.

“We need to be not floating around with this, we need to land solidly on what we’re doing for the future of this state to keep people here and make sure kids’ class sizes aren’t as crazy as they are. “

Near 71st Street at Union High School, the district’s Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) held a support rally, “Tailgating for Teachers.”

Outside the main entrance of the school white poster boards and markers sat on fold-out tables. Participants passed around a microphone to voice their support for the walkout.

Heidi Launius, who teaches ninth grade biology at Union Public Schools, makes a sign before she joins protestors on Monday. KASSIE MCCLUNG/The Frontier

Michelle Jones, Union PTA advocacy chair, said the group wanted to give the community an outlet to participate in the walkout.

“What we’re seeing more and more of are teachers getting emergency certified,” Jones said. “We have positions that have gone unfilled because we can’t find people willing to teach for the amount the state of Oklahoma offers.”

Though Jones said she appreciated the funding package the Legislature passed last week, it wasn’t enough. Last week lawmakers passed a bill that fell short of teacher’s demands education funding: a $6,000 raise for teachers and about $50 million in funding for schools — only about half of what was sought.

“More needs to be done,” she said. “We need to get those legislators who vote ‘no’ on every tax increase to understand this is what the people of the state of Oklahoma need right now.

“This isn’t just about a teacher raise. This is about properly funding the school systems that provide service to more Oklahomans than any other service our state provides.”