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Strike looms for teachers at Shaler Area

| Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Shaler Area School District officials and the teachers union have one last opportunity to come to a contract agreement before the first day of school on Sept. 3, when the teachers plan to go on strike.

Both sides will meet Wednesday, Aug. 28, to continue negotiating for a new contract with the Shaler Area Education Association, which represents 380 teachers.

The meeting is not open to the public.

Shaler Area teachers have been working under the terms of the previous contract since it expired Aug. 15, 2011, and union and district officials have been meeting since January 2011 to negotiate a new contract.

To date, the negotiations process has included two fact-finding reports prepared by state-appointed fact-finders, one dated Oct. 31, 2011, and the other dated May 20 of this year.

District officials and teachers rejected the first fact-finding report, and union members rejected the second and final fact-finding report allowed during a negotiations process.

In a letter to district families last week, Superintendent Wes Shipley outlined information “for the very real possibility of a strike by the teachers.”

Though classes will not be held in the event of a work stoppage, school sports programs for students in grades seven to 12 and marching band will continue with the support of many current coaches, administrators, staff and parent volunteers.

All homecoming events, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 28, will continue as planned, and graduation on Friday, June 13, will not be affected by the proposed strike.

Based on the state's Act 88, teachers have two opportunities to strike with the length of each strike being limited by the instructional days available. The first strike opportunity can only last as long as it takes for the district to log 180 instructional days before June 15, and the second strike opportunity sets the 180-day cutoff at June 30.

While the Pennsylvania Department of Education determines the official end-of-strike date, district officials estimate the first strike would end Friday, Sept. 20.

If the teachers union strikes, district officials will update its school calendar accordingly. Teachers' professional-development days would be moved to the end of the school year. Students would have federal holidays off, as well as the five district-approved holidays, which are Nov. 29, Dec. 24, 26 and 31 and April 18.

Shipley said the district will provide information through an automated phone-message system, its website and the local media regarding the school start date by Friday, Aug. 30.

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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