Teacher strike halts schools

By Matt Fournaris

More than 3,000 Burlington students were out of school after 400 public teachers began striking on Thursday, Sept. 14. The ensuing week saw picket lines at various schools, meetings between the union and board members of the school district, and families scrambling to find care for students who were no longer in the school building.

After four days, the union and the school board came to an agreement, ending the strike on Tuesday evening.

Operational issues at the high school that revolve around curving the academic achievement gap was a primary reason for the teachers strike, said Erik Wells, Communications Specialist for Burlington School District.

“After they came to a resolution in mediation, the union raised some additional issues regarding salary, additional health care proposals, and operations at the elementary schools regarding teachers covering lunch and recess duty, ” said Wells. The teachers budged with their salary and health care requests, but not on schedule changes related to lunch and recess duty. According to Wednesday’s Burlington Free Press, “Terms of the deal were not disclosed pending ratification of the contract.”

“The bottom line is that we need the teachers to no longer be assigned to non-teaching duties, and give the teachers that time during the school day for them to be able to do professional work that has to be done if we are going to close the achievement gap,” said Fran Brock, president of the Burlington Education Association.

While the classrooms were closed, some programs at the school carried on without teachers present. “We have some of the neediest students in the district that are relying on the meal service we provide just to eat everyday”, Wells said. He said that the district planned to provide bagged meals for these students throughout the remainder of the strike.

At the moment, it is undetermined if the days missed due to the strike will need to be made up. The district is treating the days off the same way they would snow days.