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Friday, December 1, 2023
Dec. 1, 2023

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No deal reached, Ridgefield teachers to strike Friday

District will remain closed until a settlement can be reached

By , Columbian staff writer

Teachers in Ridgefield will go on strike starting Friday after the Ridgefield School District and the Ridgefield Education Association failed to reach a deal on a tentative contract on Thursday night. Schools in the Ridgefield School District will be closed Friday and until a deal can be reached.

Thursday’s session began around 4:30 p.m. just like it had in days prior and ended around 8:45 p.m. The union — which has now been working without a contract since Sept. 1 — plans to picket outside schools across the district from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday. They have also indicated that they will enter another bargaining session with district representatives on Friday.

“None of us want to be on strike, but ignoring our dysfunctional intervention program, unsafe staffing levels and the need for more counselors when the district has the money to do something about it is unacceptable,” REA Co-President Elizabeth Stamp said in a press release Thursday night. “We are united with the Ridgefield community demanding what our students deserve and we’re calling on the district to do the right thing.”

“Despite making progress, we unfortunately did not come to an agreement on the terms of a new contract with the teachers’ union and have been informed that they will be going on strike tomorrow,” the district said in a statement posted on Twitter late Thursday. A spokesman had said earlier that the district would cancel classes if teachers went out on strike.

During the strike, school buildings and offices will be closed and meal services will be suspended. Middle and high school athletics, however, will continue as scheduled. Students who attend Cascadia Tech Academy will attend their classes as scheduled, and will be able to take the bus to and from school at their usual location.

The contract offer extended by the district on Wednesday included ground gained between the sides on special education class sizes and caseloads, but it was still short of what the union has sought.

The district’s offer includes a minimum 8.5 percent wage increase in overall compensation to all employees for the current 2022-23 school year; a minimum 4.5 percent wage increase for the next school year (2023-24); and a minimum 3 percent wage increase for the following school year (2024-25). This also includes a 5.5 percent state-provided cost of living adjustment allocation.

A copy of the newest contract offer can be found on the district’s bargaining update page, as can a summary document that highlights where to find the specific differences between the offer posted on Wednesday and the previous offer extended to the union on Monday.

Other top priorities for the union include increased time allowed for preparation and planning and fewer responsibilities in supervising students outside of instructional time, such as before and after school.

Negotiations this week, which began with two impromptu sessions on Sunday and Monday, have reportedly been more successful than they had been in previous weeks. Previously, union representatives said the district had finally begun to hear them on salary increases and the awarding of money from the state but that they hadn’t budged on changes to quality of life concerns like class sizes and time protections.

“It does feel like this week has been a little more productive,” said Adam Isaguirre, a spokesperson for the union and Washington Education Association representative. “There’s a bit more momentum.”

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