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News / Clark County News

Ridgefield schools to be closed again Wednesday as bargaining continues

Session with state mediator to continue following 5 p.m. board meeting

By Griffin Reilly, Columbian staff writer
Published: September 13, 2022, 2:54pm

Ridgefield schools will be closed again today as the district has still been unable to reach a deal on a new contract with the Ridgefield Education Association.

Tuesday marked the third day of school closures as members of the teachers union — which represents 200 certificated staff members in Ridgefield, mostly classroom teachers — continued picketing. Teachers have been without a contract since Sept. 1, which was the second day of school.

Bargaining negotiations with a state mediator began at 9:30 a.m. — a few hours earlier than they have in recent days — and concluded around 4 p.m. The Ridgefield board of directors was scheduled to meet at 5 p.m., after which the bargaining session is expected to continue.

Monday evening’s bargaining session provided an updated packaged proposal from the Ridgefield School District, which can be found on its bargaining updates page at https://www.ridgefieldsd.org/page/bargaining-update.

The newest proposal takes another step forward toward reducing special education class sizes and caseloads for counselors, therapists and paraeducators, an issue the union has identified as its top priority.

The sides remain divided on the addition of more pre-instruction preparation time for teachers and special educators and contract language that will guarantee any future state-provided salary boosts for teachers be extended without further negotiations. As of now, the district has offered the union the ability to reopen the contract in the coming years if such funding is offered — an action union leadership has said in recent days is something they shouldn’t have to bargain for.

If the strike continues, parents and community members can expect schools to remain closed and meal services will be suspended. Middle and high school athletics 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.

Members from the Ridgefield Education Association have been providing sack lunches between noon and 2 p.m. at the United Methodist Church in Ridgefield to students in recent days as long the strike continues, according to the church’s Twitter account.

On Tuesday night, teachers in Seattle appeared to reach a tentative deal on a new contract; Kent teachers ended their strike last week. Ridgefield now remains alongside Eatonville as one of the few school districts in the state closed amid open bargaining.

This story will be updated.