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Students return to class in Shaler as teachers strike ends

| Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, 9:33 a.m.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Shaler Area Elementary School principal Cynthia Foht greets students on the first day of school Friday September 13, 2013. The school year was delayed due to a teacher strike.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Shaler Area Elementary School students arrive on the first day of school Friday September 13, 2013. The school year was delayed due to a teacher strike.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Shaler Area Elementary School principal Cynthia Foht greets students on the first day of school Friday September 13, 2013. The school year was delayed due to a teacher strike.

Nearly 4,700 students returned to class on Friday in the Shaler Area School District after a teachers strike that delayed the start of the school year by more than a week.

“I was happy but sad at the same time,” said Shaler Area Elementary fifth-graderRieley Herman.

Teachers and district officials ratified a five-year contract on Wednesday. The strike began Sept. 3, more than two years after the union's contract expired.

“We're all ready to be back,” said Kristin Zientek, a fifth-grade teacher at the elementary school. “All the kids seem really happy. ... The smiles seem bigger this year.”

The contract settles disagreements on health care premiums but does not address quarrels about teacher salary increases, a matter that school administrators hope to resolve in coming weeks through binding arbitration.

The contract is retroactive to August 2011 and runs through Aug. 15, 2016.

The district is slated to begin arbitration with union officials as soon as next month. The three-member panel's decision will be non-negotiable.

The strike could have lasted until Sept. 23.

“It was very stressful not knowing, but we're glad to be back,” said Dina Persichetti of Shaler, whose daughter attends Rogers Primary School.

Superintendent Wes Shipley visited each school and welcomed staff and students.

“The best part of the year is the first days of school, so we're glad to have them here,” Shipley said.

School officials used time caused by the delayed start to tackle additional maintenance projects, such as painting.

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

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