FAIRPLAY, Colo. —
Park County School District RE-2 will open their classrooms Monday despite their educators continuing to strike this week, according to a statement released Sunday.
District officials said classrooms will be staffed by regular teachers who chose to return to work along with licensed substitute teachers around the region.
"Our other staff will also be here to support the school’s function. Buses are running, food will be served, offices will be open, paraprofessionals will be with students, special service providers will be here," the district said.
Educators in the Park County School District RE-2 were on the picket lines for a fifth day Friday as a standoff continues between teachers and the district over pay and contracts.
Union leaders with the South Park Education Association (SPEA) and district officials met Friday where a proposal to bring a neutral fact-finder was introduced to the district.
According to SPEA, the fact-finder would review and form an unbiased opinion about the district’s finances. After a five-hour review of the proposal, district officials rejected the educators’ proposal and offered a counterproposal.
“This is the first counterproposal we have ever received,” said third-grade teacher and SPEA President Taya Mastrobuono. “We heard loud and clear at our Board meeting last night that our community demands financial transparency from the district.”
SPEA met with educators on Saturday evening to review the district’s counterproposal where members unanimously rejected the district’s counter offer.
“We are prepared to continue to stand up for our rights and our students’ futures for as long as it takes,” said Mastrobuono. “Our door is open to the District whenever and wherever it wants to meet with us. Striking is completely avoidable if the District finds the will to compromise, and yet completely necessary if the District expects us to bow down and accept its mandates.”
All classes were canceled in the district last week due to the strike.
On Thursday night, members of SPEA called for Board President Kim Bundgaard to step down so "educators can collaborate on a new direction with a new school board to end the four-day educator strike," according to a statement by the Colorado Education Association (CEA).
“Educators have completely lost confidence in...Bundgaard's ability and interest to end our educator retention crisis," said Mastrobuono. "She has been absent during our strike this week and Superintendent Joe Torrez is paralyzed to negotiate critical compensation issues directly with us without her approval."
Both sides also met for a public meeting from about 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Wednesday to continue teacher pay discussions. A federal mediator also joined that meeting.
Prior to the strike, SPEA met with school district leaders and requested they discuss finances and teacher salaries. According to SPEA, the district continued to say that they "couldn’t until we finished the Professional Agreement” or “were not authorized to discuss it."
"Compensation is in our Professional Agreement, not separate and critical to keeping high-quality educators in our district. We didn’t hear a commitment from them to work through this important issue," SPEA said on their website.
Previously, district leaders had said their budget didn't allow for an additional raise for teachers.
"The district is not sitting on stockpiles of money, as suggested by SPEA," according to a Sept. 17 release.
The school board has said it offered a $2,000 raise in May. The SPEA said that wasn't enough and wanted the amount tripled. The contract for the educators expired months ago.
South Park teachers are the third education association to strike in the past 18 months in Colorado. The other two were the Denver Classroom Teachers Association and Pueblo District 60.
According to its website, Park County School District RE-2 is located in Fairplay and serves about 500 students at its campus there, which includes a preschool, elementary school, middle school, and high school. The district also has two charter schools, in Guffey and Lake George.
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