This story originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.
The school district and two employee associations will be meeting Aug. 13 to continue bargaining for a new contract. If an agreement can’t be reached, the associations have voted to strike.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is hopeful an agreement will be reached next week, a Wednesday press release from the district said.
The Kenai Peninsula Education Association and Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association are also hopeful the district can work with them to settle a contract, Kenai Peninsula Education Association President David Brighton said.
“Health insurance is still unaffordable,” Brighton said. “We hope the school district can work with us to settle a contract.”
After contract negotiations with the district hit a standstill, peninsula educators and staff voted May 22 to strike, with more than 75% of certified staff voting “yes” on a walkout. The associations planned to choose a strategic time to start the strike.
For over a year, contract negotiations between the borough school district and the associations have snagged on the rising cost of health care. A previous agreement effective through June 2018 remains in use for employees without contracts.
District employees cannot be fired for participating in a legal strike.
What happens if a contract can’t be settled and employees go on strike? In the district’s press release, communications liaison Pegge Erkeneff said a work stoppage would result in an emergency closure of schools.
If and when the associations decide to call a strike, they are required to notify the superintendent 72 hours in advance. The superintendent will notify staff, parents, community partners, contractors and others of the strike’s start date.
In the event of a strike, every school in the district will be closed, including Connections Homeschool, charter and alternative schools and distance delivery programs, the district’s release said.
The emergency school closures will impact all before- and after-school activities, sports, community school activities, pools and any rentals or usage of school facilities, the district’s release said.
The closure also encompasses any Boys and Girls Clubs activities in every school in the district.
Only individuals approved by the superintendent will have access to district schools and facilities.
The cancellation of all high school sporting activities are subject to the rules of Kenai Peninsula School Activities Association, affiliate region boards and Alaska School Activities Association, and contests may or may not be able to be made up, according to the release.
School session days and staff work days that are missed due to a strike must be made up and the number of days schools are closed due to the strike will be added to the end of the school year in May.
In the event of a strike, daily updates will be issued and official district communications will be posted on the district’s website and digital media platforms.
These changes will only occur if the superintendent receives a strike notice from the associations.
Collective bargaining resumes at 4:30 p.m., Aug. 13 at Soldotna High School Library.