The Shaler Area teachers union has rejected the district's request to enter into "final best offer arbitration" rather than strike Tuesday if they don't have a new contract agreement.
Superintendent Wesley Shipley will announce later today if he is canceling classes for Tuesday.
Mr. Shipley said previously that if an agreement was not reached by late today, he would likely cancel the start of school on Tuesday because he didn't want students and parents going away for the holiday weekend unsure about when classes will begin. If a breakthrough occurs during the weekend, the closure will last just a day.
The two sides met for more than seven hours Wednesday night and made what both sides characterized as "slow progress." The next negotiating session is set for Monday morning with a state mediator. The teachers have been working under the provisions of their previous contract, which expired in the summer of 2011.
"We have a negotiating session scheduled for Monday, and we would love to see something positive come out of that. But short of an agreement, we plan on moving forward with our strike," said Melissa Ravas, president of the Shaler Area Education Association, which represents 390 teachers and other professionals.
She said the mediator is willing to hold a session before Monday if either side "had a move they want to make."
A statement posted on the district website Thursday said the salary scale and teachers' contribution to medical benefits are the major obstacles.
It was after the Wednesday negotiating session that the district presented Mrs. Ravas with a letter requesting that the union enter into arbitration rather than striking. The union notified the district in writing Thursday that it was rejecting that request.
If the teachers strike on Tuesday and the work stoppage lasts the maximum amount of time allowed by state law, the dispute would automatically enter final best offer arbitration, the district statement said. Mr. Shipley had hoped to avoid the strike and move directly to the arbitration process, which is not binding.
The state Department of Education would set the length of any strike if one occurs based on ensuring 180 days of instruction by June 15.
In a statement earlier this month, Mr. Shipley said the district believes the last possible day for a strike to end would be Sept. 20, which is a Friday, with school starting Sept. 23.
Students attending A.W. Beattie Career Center would continue to do so throughout a strike. School sports for grades 7-12 and marching band would continue with support of administrative staff, coaches and parent volunteers.
Makeup days are expected to occur within the current calendar, the statement added. Homecoming, set for Sept. 28, is expected to be held as planned.
Mary Niederberger: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1590. First Published August 29, 2013 12:00 PM