PORT ORCHARD — The South Kitsap School District and the teachers’ union announced Friday night they had reached a tentative contract agreement that will likely avert a strike and allow classes to start next week as scheduled.
The agreement must still be approved by the rank-and-file teachers, but the head of their union said in a news release Friday night that the proposal “makes real progress toward smaller class sizes” — the main issue in the dispute.
Teachers said they were facing class sizes of 35 to 37 students this fall, and some as many as 40 students, after the district laid off 57 teachers earlier this year.
Teachers will meet at 3 p.m. Tuesday at South Kitsap High School to hear from their negotiating team about the tentative agreement and to vote whether to accept the contract proposal.
“We are happy to finally have a tentative agreement that makes real progress toward smaller class sizes,” said John Richardson, president of the South Kitsap Education Association, which represents the teachers in the district. “We thank the community for their support and look forward to our meeting on Tuesday.”
On Monday, teachers had authorized their union to call a strike if an agreement on smaller class sizes was not reached by Sept. 1. But the tentative agreement ends the threat of an immediate strike, at least until teachers vote on the contract proposal Tuesday. School is set to start Wednesday.
“We are very pleased that we were able to reach a tentative agreement with our dedicated and skilled staff in the South Kitsap Education Association,” School Board President Keith Garton said. “I also want to acknowledge the hard work of the district’s bargaining team.”
Garton also added that the School Board has directed Superintendent Michelle Reid “to work with district stakeholders to continue the focus on rebuilding the district’s reserves and fiscal stability. The board also expects Dr. Reid to work on the implementation of the recommendations from the recent independent fiscal review.”
“We want to thank everyone in the community for your dedication to our school system and your patience as we worked on reaching a tentative agreement. I know both the district and SKEA are united in providing the best education possible for South Kitsap students,” Garton said.