South Kitsap teachers vote to authorize strike over class size

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PORT ORCHARD — South Kitsap teachers voted Monday night to authorize a strike if an agreement cannot be reached by Sept. 1 with the School District to hire more teachers and reduce class size.

The district cut the teaching force by 10 percent in May — a total of 57 teachers — in an effort to close a budget gap.

As a result, teachers say, the average class size at South Kitsap High School this fall is projected to be about 35 students. Four classes are expected to have 40 or more students.

The union is in the midst of contract talks.  Union officials say they say they have never considered a strike before but if class sizes don’t get smaller a strike could happen.

New School District Superintendent Michelle Reid says there is about $1 million in discretionary funds that could be used to restore up to 15 teaching jobs. But she recently said she is not committing to any decision yet and wants to wait until Sept. 4, the first day of school, for the final enrollment numbers.

That date puts her at odds with the Sept. 1 deadline the teachers gave the district Monday night.

In the video report, South Kitsap teacher Josh Morton discusses the teachers’ vote.

Monday night, Reid issued a statement that said, “While I am disappointed that the South Kitsap Education Association has chosen to strike; the District remains committed to reaching an agreement that is both educationally sound and fiscally responsible prior to the start of the upcoming school year. We realize and understand the potential impact a strike would cause to our school and community and are therefore focused on reaching a fair agreement as soon as possible. We will be returning to the bargaining process in the morning. I know we remain committed to resolving this contract dispute so that we can move forward together and support teaching and learning in the district.”

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