School starts without a new contract

Alaska, Education, News, Print

This story originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.

The school district and two employee associations have not reconvened after efforts to come to a contract agreement fell short Aug. 13.

School began Tuesday for majority of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, and teachers are starting another school year without a contract.

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.

After negotiations ended Aug. 13, the Kenai Peninsula Education Association and Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association were waiting for the district to analyze the cost of their most recent proposal, requiring an estimate from the broker. The broker was unable to get the estimate to the district by last weekend, and the two employee associations are waiting on a response from the district, Kenai Peninsula Education Association President David Brighton said.

The associations hope to meet with the district soon, and reach an agreement, but if no agreement can be made the employee associations said they will be ready to strike in September, a post from the Kenai Peninsula Education Association said.

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.

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 an August press release from the district, 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 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.

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