Students in the Shaler Area School District got an extra day added to their weekend when superintendent Wesley Shipley announced he is canceling the first day of classes Tuesday because of the threat of a teachers strike.
Mr. Shipley posted the announcement on the district's website Friday afternoon so that families leaving for the holiday weekend were not left wondering whether school would start on Tuesday. The cancellation was prompted by the Shaler Area Education Association's announcement earlier this summer that teachers would strike if a new agreement was not reached by the first day of school.
The previous contract expired in the summer of 2011 and teachers have been working under its provisions while negotiating with the district.
The two sides met for more than seven hours Wednesday night, making some progress. The next session is set for Monday morning. Salaries and contributions to health care have been identified as the major issues in the talks.
If a settlement is reached over the weekend, school will resume Wednesday, Mr. Shipley said.
The district tried to avert a strike by asking teachers to enter into final best offer arbitration following the Wednesday session, but the union refused.
If the teachers strike and stay out the maximum amount allowed under state law, the dispute will automatically head to final best offer arbitration, which is not binding.
The state Department of Education will set the length of the strike, if it occurs, based on achieving 180 days of education by June 15.
Mr. Shipley issued a statement saying the district believed the last possible day for a strike to end would be Sept. 20, a Friday, with classes resuming Sept. 23, a Monday.
If a strike occurs, students who attend A.W. Beattie Career Center or private schools will continue to have transportation provided by the district.
A strike in Shaler Area would mark the first for the county this year.
However, other districts are in various stages of negotiations, including Bethel Park, Duquesne, Pine-Richland, Deer Lakes, East Allegheny, Gateway, Montour, Sto-Rox, Elizabeth Forward and Wilkinsburg.
Mary Niederberger: email@example.com.