Port Angeles schools could be closed on Monday

District, union to meet Sunday before possible strike

PORT ANGELES — Negotiating teams for the Port Angeles School District and the Port Angeles Paraeducators Association met Friday with a mediator for the fifth time since February and came away without an agreement for a contract.

The two sides will have one more opportunity to meet on Sunday to work out their differences before the 130 members of the PAPEA walk out on Monday — what would be the first day back from spring break.

A school district official said families should receive an update at 5 p.m. Sunday, notifying families whether or not an agreement has been reached. Future updates will be posted at https://www.portangelesschools.org/labor.

If an agreement hasn’t been reached, families will be notified via email and text message that all schools across the Port Angeles School District will be closed on Monday.

“A labor strike means that striking workers do not come to work,” Superintendent Marty Brewer said in a statement released Friday. “The Port Angeles Educators Association (PAEA), the union representing teachers, has also chosen not to cross the picket line. Unfortunately, our schools cannot operate without instructional staff.

“The district will continue to bargain over the weekend, and we will keep families and staff informed while making every attempt to avoid a strike.”

The school district at the PAPEA have been negotiating since last summer. The main sticking point has been paraeducators’ demand for a 3.7 percent wage increase based on the implicit price deflator (IPD) — the formula the state uses to determine district allocations for salary and salary-related benefits.

The school district has said it does not have the revenue to fund the paraeducators’ request while maintaining the same level and quality of student programs.

Paraeducators overwhelmingly approved a measure on Feb. 21 authorizing a strike on Monday if an agreement can not be reached. Members of the Port Angeles Education Association, which represents teachers, voted March 27 to honor the PAPEA picket line.

In a special meeting on Friday, the school board unanimously approved four resolutions as a contingency should paraeducators call a strike.

The resolutions authorized Superintendent Marty Brewer to close school grounds and facilities, to limit access to school property to emergency responders, and to work with the district’s law firm, Vandeberg Johnson Gandara.

The board also agreed to the suspension of some of its policies to enable it to take immediate action as events evolve during a strike.

“We need to be ready if we can’t come to an agreement,” board President Sarah Methner said. “Our team, and the other team, have been working really hard through their spring break to get this done.”

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

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