Members of the Port Angeles Paraeducators Association gather on Lincoln Street on Sunday morning, a day before a planned strike if an agreement cannot be reached with the Port Angeles School District over a new contract. (Paula Hunt/Peninsula News)

Members of the Port Angeles Paraeducators Association gather on Lincoln Street on Sunday morning, a day before a planned strike if an agreement cannot be reached with the Port Angeles School District over a new contract. (Paula Hunt/Peninsula News)

No deal: Port Angeles Paraeducators Association to strike

Port Angeles School District to be closed Monday

PORT ANGELES — The union representing paraeducators will go on strike Monday — what would have been the first day of classes after spring break — after bargaining for six hours on Sunday and failing to reach an agreement on a new contract with the Port Angeles School District.

The union bargaining team was prepared to continue negotiating Sunday, but district representatives notified them just after 5 p.m. that they were done for the day.

The two sides will return to the bargaining table at 8 a.m. Monday.

“Paras really want to be in school,” said PAPEA President Rebecca Winters, a paraeducator at Hamilton Elementary School, in a statement. “Unfortunately, the district refuses to settle a fair contract.”

In an email sent to families, the school district said it would continue to provide meal service to students during the strike. Meals can be picked up in the parking lots at Dry Creek and Hamilton elementary schools between 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and in the parking lots at Franklin, Jefferson and Roosevelt elementary schools between 11 a.m. and noon.

Also in the email, the school district said athletic practices and events and “associated transportation” will continue as scheduled.

The school district posted a notice on its website with information for families that can be found at www.portangelesschools.org/labor.

The PAPEA is demanding a 3.7 percent wage increase, annual salary step increases, recognition for hard-to-fill special education positions, for training, certifications and academic degrees, and for earlier and higher rates of pay for longevity.

The 3.7 percent wage adjustment has been the main sticking point in contract negotiations that began last summer. The number represents the annual implicit price deflator (IDP), the formula the state determined will be used to offset the impact of inflation on school employees’ wages. Next year, the IDP will be 3.9 percent.

While set by the state, the annual increases are not automatically passed through to employees but must be bargained with each of a district’s locals.

The salary schedule in the paraeducators’ contract that expired Aug. 31 was based on 184 working days and paid an hourly wage ranging from $21.68 to $28.33, depending on years of experience.

The PAPEA said a 3.7 percent across-the-board pay bump for its 130 members would cost the school district $128,000.

The school district has argued that because of underfunding from the state, it cannot commit to bargaining agreements that could negatively impact student support services and programs. Last year, it had to trim $5 million — or about 10 percent — from its budget to close a funding gap. It accomplished that by increasing class sizes, not filling some positions left open by retirement and eliminating some programs.

A loss of 41 full-time-equivalent students this year will mean about $640,000 in lost revenue from the state in 2024-2025.

On Saturday, paraeducators distributed more than 600 flyers in school neighborhoods. They picketed on Lincoln Street between Second and Third streets on Sunday morning and assembled about 500 signs and made 200 buttons in preparation for a strike.

Paraeducators and members of the Port Angeles Education Association will picket on Monday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at all of the district’s schools.

PAPEA members overwhelmingly authorized a strike Feb. 21 if the union and the district could not come to an agreement. In March, the PAEA voted to not cross the paraeducators’ picket line.

Paraeducators last held a strike in November 2018 that teachers also honored and that closed schools for two days.

________

Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached by email at paula.hunt@peninsulanews.us.

Becca Paul, right, helps assemble signs for the Port Angeles Paraeducators Association strike on Monday. Paul, a paraeducator at Jefferson Elementary School, is among 130 union members who will walk off their jobs in the Port Angeles School District as they call for a 3.7 percent wage increase, better longevity increases, enhanced salary steps and recognition for certification and academic degrees. (Paula Hunt/Peninsula News)

Becca Paul, right, helps assemble signs for the Port Angeles Paraeducators Association strike on Monday. Paul, a paraeducator at Jefferson Elementary School, is among 130 union members who will walk off their jobs in the Port Angeles School District as they call for a 3.7 percent wage increase, better longevity increases, enhanced salary steps and recognition for certification and academic degrees. (Paula Hunt/Peninsula News)

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