This story originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.

Educators and staff will strike, starting Tuesday, a Friday night press release from two employee associations said.

Executive committees with the Kenai Peninsula Education Association and the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association voted on Friday to notify the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District on their intent to strike starting at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

“The failure of the KPBSD to adequately address the Association’s primary concern of affordable healthcare premiums for public school employees continues to hinder an acceptable agreement,” the associations’ release said.

The district and the associations have been negotiation a contract for nearly 600 days, and bargaining has snagged on the rising cost of health care.

“The high cost of healthcare is causing educators and their families to leave the district and is becoming a barrier to recruiting and retaining high quality education professionals for our students,” David Brighton, KPEA said. “This is a crisis and the District has the power to fix it.

A previous agreement effective through June 2018 remains in use for employees without contracts.

An offer from the district was presented to the associations on Thursday, a press release from the district said.

The associations rejected the district’s offer at their Thursday bargaining session and made a counter proposal, with a deadline for the district to respond at 4 p.m., Friday.

After 4 p.m. Friday, the district released a press release noting they asked for additional information on the proposal from the associations.

After contract negotiations with the district hit a standstill in May, peninsula educators and staff voted May 22 to strike, with more than 75% of certified staff voting “yes” on a walkout.

“We understand the short-term impact a strike will have on students and families, but the long-term impacts of growing class sizes and shrinking communities because no one can afford to work here are far more serious,” Anne McCabe, president of KPESA, said. “The District can end this strike before it even begins if they decide to value our public school employees and offer them a fair contract.”

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