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Oct. 6, 2022

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Ridgefield students return after tentative deal reached Sunday

Parents express relief, reflect on a week of tumult

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
2 Photos
A sign welcomes students on Monday at Union Ridge Elementary School in Ridgefield. Classes began after a tentative agreement was reached between the Ridgefield School district and the Ridgefield Education Association on Sunday evening.
A sign welcomes students on Monday at Union Ridge Elementary School in Ridgefield. Classes began after a tentative agreement was reached between the Ridgefield School district and the Ridgefield Education Association on Sunday evening. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Ridgefield students returned to school Monday morning for the first time since Sept. 8 after a teacher strike kept the district on a six-day hiatus due to stalled contract negotiations.

Details of the tentative deal — which was reached in a mediation session just after 4 p.m. on Sunday — are not yet available, per an unofficial non-disclosure agreement between the two sides until the deal is fully approved.

The full membership of the Ridgefield Education Association — which represents about 240 teachers and certificated staff in the district — will vote on the terms of the contract in a private meeting on Tuesday evening.

For parents and students, the week of closures served as a challenge and a learning opportunity for children who were unsure of what had caused the interruption.

“It’s relieving that it’s over, my son had a hard time understanding why school was closed,” said Kay Schuh, who had just dropped off her second-grader at Union Ridge Elementary School on Monday morning. “We took a walk through the strike line, and I think he understood a little bit better the severity of the situation.

“It was hard as a parent to have (the children) home that whole time, but I understand the importance of the rights of workers. It’s hard, but they should have to draw the line if they feel they’re being treated unfairly,” Schuh added.

As things return to normal, the general hope for those in the district is to continue with what they had hoped would be the first “normal” year of education since 2019. First will come the process of healing after the topic of the strike stirred debate in Ridgefield in recent weeks, particularly on social media.

“I just hope (the strike) isn’t something we’re going to have to face again. I think it was really hard on the community,” said Natalie Schubert, a parent of a fifth grader in the district. “There was so much division, it made me so sad because we’re all neighbors and friends who shop at the same stores with kids at the same schools.”

Schubert added, however, that the teachers union succeeded in educating her and other community members on their roles in bargaining and the struggles within special education, which the union had identified as their primary area of concern.

“I thought that the state would be setting guidelines for caseloads and class sizes, I actually learned that the teachers actually had the power to negotiate for changes in those things,” she said. “Because I don’t have a special-ed student, I didn’t know they were struggling in that area. That brought to light that issue for me.”

Details on the finalized contract will likely be available on Wednesday, barring any rejection of the deal by the union’s membership on Tuesday.

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