Schools signal advance surrender to teachers' strike

Members of Reynolds (PA) Education Association won’t decide until Monday if they’ll strike, but the school board is preparing students and their parents for what will happen if the teachers set up a picket line. School board President Jeffrey A. Colson sent a letter home to parents Thursday explaining procedures for school operations if a strike is called.

The school board and union will meet Monday to try and settle a contract, and the union has said if a deal isn’t reached, it will strike Tuesday morning.

If there’s a strike, classes will be canceled for all students from Tuesday until the school board receives official notification that the teachers will return to work. Exceptions are students who attend the Mercer County Career Center and Keystone Education Center, Colson said.

Parochial school and special education students who ride Reynolds buses will be able to continue to do so. Any questions about transportation can be directed to Karen Sherwood at 724-646-5525.

If a strike is called, the district will try to continue to offer all student activities including sports and marching band, Colson said.

The district’s Web site will have updates on the strike and the school board also plans to notify the media when new information is available, he said.

According to the Web site, teachers can strike twice during a school year and the first strike must end in time for the school year to be completed by June 15. Teachers can strike for about 18 days if school is held on all holidays except Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day and Memorial Day.

A second strike can last about 11 days and the school year would need to be completed by June 30.

The Web site also contains specific information about contract negotiations. A news release from the school board posted Thursday said negotiations have reached a critical point and the major unresolved issues include salaries, fringe benefits and early retirement.

Some sticking points for both sides are health care and co-payments. In the board’s latest proposal, they asked the teachers to pay premium co-payments for health insurance, with teachers paying $25 for individual coverage and $50 for family coverage in the first year of a new contract.

In the 2010-11 school year, the last year of a new contract, those co-payments would rise to $50 for individuals and $70 for families.

“Most of the district’s taxpayers would welcome such modest co-payments for health insurance,” the board’s news release said.

The union said in a news release Wednesday the public needs to know the teachers are trying to save the district money and the co-payments the board proposed would be the highest for any teachers in Mercer County.

“We've made considerable movement and money-saving concessions in a number of areas, including agreeing to move all of our members from a traditional indemnity health care plan to a PPO,” said Gino Tofani, union president and chief negotiator.


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