As contact talks between the School Committee and Andover's teachers become more contentious, the voice of those caught in the middle is taking shape.
A student group calling itself Students for Action had gathered 223 signatures as of Monday on a petition asking the School Committee and Andover Education Association "for a timely and effective solution, which maintains the high standard of education that Andover is known for."
Andover teachers have been working under their previous contract for 18 months, and have voted to support so-called Work to Rule, which means they are unlikely to do work not specified in their contract.
"We are going to be the ones living with it for the rest of our lives," said Emily Brownholtz, an Andover High junior. "The School Committee and teachers need to figure out what they are doing, because the lack of decision-making that is going on is affecting the students."
Available online through the website Change.org, the petition states "this conflict has become a problem and a distraction within the school system. We simply ask for both parties to redouble their efforts to reach an acceptable compromise, keeping in mind that the lack of decisions being made by both sides greatly impacts the students."
So long as the talks go on and teacher-supported Work-to-Rule continues, too much is on the line for Andover's students who need extra help, college recommendations and more, according to Brownholtz.
"I know I can get the best recommendations ever out of some of my teachers," said Brownholtz. "If [Work-to-Rule] continues into next year, I don't know what I'm going to do. "
Brownholtz believes any impacts on students today could lead to drastic problems years down the road.
"We are the next generation, and we can't have things messed up in our lives because they are fighting over things that can be settled so easily," said Brownholtz. "Students For Action is not taking a side at all. We are neutral, but we want something to get done."
Many of those signing the petition agree. A month ago, one Andover petition-signer added her own comments about why she put her name on the list. With Work-to-Rule starting during the month of finals, "without the availability of teachers after school, not only for finals, I guarantee my grades will suffer," the student wrote.
"While I do not agree with every point in the proposed contract, I realize that the education of thousands of children are at stake and this ridiculous matter must be resolved for the benefit of all parties," another petition signer wrote.
There is a suggestion that individuals from communities other than Andover are signing the petition, as one person wrote, "Supporting education issues; we have a special public million dollar school in Stockton with 55 at-risk students that needs an audit and oversight."
Asked what she would do if she received a petition with 500 signatures, the group's goal, AEA President Kerry Costello corrected the question by saying "student signatures."
She said the students' mobilization is powerful.
"The reason you have the gold standard of civil rights, as students, under the first amendment in the state of Massachusetts is because, in one point in time, three students put on a black arm band to protest a war," said Costello. "I applaud their efforts to advocate, to educate and to mobilize."