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Park County, Colorado

Park County, Colorado

Denver Post file

Park County teachers set one-week strike deadline

Educators in the Park County Re-2 school district have set a strike date of Oct. 14.

Teachers in the Fairplay-based district have had legal permission to strike since late September, but they initially put off a decision on a date to see if negotiations between the district and union representatives might yield a deal. If Park County teachers walk off the job, it would be Colorado’s third teacher strike in less than 18 months.

The last time the two sides met formally was Aug. 23. The district decided not to participate in talks that had been scheduled for Sept. 14.

The decision to announce a strike date raises the stakes for negotiations currently set for Wednesday.

“SPEA members are skeptical at best that Wednesday’s meeting will be productive, if it happens at all,” South Park Education Association President Taya Mastrobuono said in a press release. “We reached a decision together that it is necessary to announce our strike date before the scheduled Wednesday meeting to put the district on notice that its stalling tactics do not work from this point forward.”

School board President Kim Bundgaard said she was not aware of the decision before a reporter contacted her.

“I am stunned,” she wrote in an email.

In their own press release, district officials struck an optimistic note and said they had sent a new draft agreement back to teachers on Monday for review in advance of Wednesday’s meeting.

“The district remains hopeful that the meeting on Wednesday will allow the parties to finalize the document so that it can be ratified and approved later this month,” officials said.

Union members say they want the restoration of a contract that expired this summer, but with greater say over teacher salary and working conditions.

The school board approved raises for teachers in May, but union members say the additional money isn’t enough to stem teacher turnover and allow more educators to afford to live in the community. Housing costs in Park County have surged in recent years as ski resort communities in neighboring Summit County have become even less affordable.

District officials say they need to consider the long-term financial health of the district and that additional raises could put the district on shaky ground.

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