SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Tens of thousands of students in the Sacramento City Unified School District will not be in school again Thursday as teachers and staff return to the picket lines for a second straight day.

SCUSD teachers and staff marched in front of McClatchy High School and other campuses across the district.

They said they would much prefer to be in the classroom, but ultimately, felt walking the picket lines was the best way to make their voices loud and clear. 

“I feel disrespected by our leaders, I feel disrespected by the school board and I feel disrespected by the superintendent,” said Lori Jablonsky, a Sacramento City Teachers Association (SCTA) representative and McClatchy High School teacher.

SCTA and SEIU Local 1021 are demanding SCUSD agree to a contract that removes proposed changes to employee health care plans, provides wage increases to account for inflation, and includes a proposal to resolve staff shortages.

“The message is we’re unified,” Jablonsky told FOX40. “The message is we’re going to stay out here for as long as we can to begin meaningful negotiation to address the extreme staffing shortage in this district.”

For New Joseph Bonnheim teacher Christina Roulet Barrish, she’s starting to get anxious. 

“I’m thinking about, ‘OK, how long is this going to last?’” Barrish said. “I’m a little scared because we don’t get paid when we’re on strike. Some people don’t know that.” 

Those who took part in the demonstrations Thursday were of all ages.

“My dad is a teacher at McClatchy and I would like to be a teacher when I am an adult, and it’s just so hard to see how these teachers are being so underpaid and not being understood for all of the hard work they do,” said fifth grade student Ashton Vaughanbechtold.

According to district leaders, their proposal includes a 2% raise, health care for staff and a pay increase for substitute teachers.

“I feel that the proposal that we have passed to the SCTA is a very, very reasonable one that provides 100% health coverage for all of our employees,” said SCUSD Superintendent Jorge Aguilar.

The Sacramento school staff unions say some of their demands can be funded with COVID-19 relief funding, but the district says a portion of that money should be spent only on one-time spending projects and not salaries.

People on the picket lines say all of this boils down to more than just money. They say they also want support.

Both sides have told FOX40 they are eager to return to the negotiating table and get schools back open. Negotiations have yet to take place Thursday.

A district spokesperson said it plans to meet with SEIU on March 30 but is open to meeting sooner. That date was requested by the union. 

But it’s a response that doesn’t sit well with chapter President Karla Faucett. 

“Shame on the district for telling lies over and over again. That they’re ready because they’ve never been ready. I challenge them to come to the table. We’ll meet them within an hour,” Faucett said.