The Associated Press

Portland mediation

With a Feb. 20 strike deadline looming, both Portland Public Schools and its teachers are taking steps to prepare. The two sides reportedly met Tuesday afternoon with a state mediator. Also on Tuesday, district officials sent out a message to full- and part-time teachers saying they have the right to strike or continue working. The district says all union members will be required to check out with administrators on Feb. 19 and turn in all district property. The teachers union sent its members a message suggesting that teachers remove their personal belongings from their classrooms “together, in solidarity,” if it becomes necessary.

— The Associated Press

MEDFORD — Schools in Southern Oregon’s largest district reopened Tuesday with shorter hours and substitutes in the classrooms for striking teachers.

Substitutes hired by the Medford School District reportedly were transported from hotels in buses with windows lined with paper to protect their identities. The teachers were given white posters to shield their identities from picketers as they entered the schools.

Superintendent Phil Long said the district expected 50 to 60 percent of the district’s 13,500 students to return to school on the first day of classes since teachers went on strike Thursday. Attendance at some schools exceeded that threshold, he said at a news conference.

Hired from cities throughout the state, the substitutes worked with lesson plans left behind by teachers who didn’t want their students to fall behind during the strike.

On the picket line, teachers said it was “sad,” “heartbreaking” and “gut-wrenching” to see their students return to school without them.

“You can’t have quality education, when quality education is walking the sidewalk,” said Cindy Woodard, a fifth-grade teacher at Oak Grove Elementary.