By Erica Meltzer, Chalkbeat Colorado
A teacher strike in Colorado’s high country is entering its second week with no sign of how or when the labor dispute will be resolved and even as classes resume in the district.
Teachers in Park County went on strike Oct. 14. Roughly 40 teachers serve some 600 students in the district based in Fairplay. Educators there are seeking raises that they say are necessary to stem turnover. In the lead up to the strike, the two sides had reached agreement on many aspects of a new contract — including giving the union the ability to bargain over salaries for the first time — but talks foundered when the union wanted to discuss salaries for the current school year.
District officials announced Sunday that schools would be open to students starting Monday, with the help of substitute teachers and support staff.
The district and the union met repeatedly last week with the help of a federal mediator, but did not reach an agreement. This is the third Colorado teacher strike in less than 18 months and now the longest of the three.
Late last week, the union proposed that the two sides hire a factfinder to do an independent review of the district’s finances. Superintendent Joe Torrez offered a counterproposal Friday evening that did not include the factfinder. Union members rejected that counterproposal over the weekend and decided to continue their strike.
Also last week, school board President Kim Bundgaard announced that she would be resigning from the board at the Nov. 21 meeting but said her departure had been planned since July and was not related to the strike. The board has seen significant turnover and seated two new appointed members at the regular meeting Thursday. Union leaders have called for Bundgaard and other incumbent board members to step down immediately to allow for new leadership.