EXETER — The residual impact of September’s teacher strike at Wyoming Area School District hit students over the Thanksgiving holiday, when they should have enjoyed five days off but only got one.
Schools were open Friday and Monday to compensate for days lost during the strike that ran from Sept. 3 through Oct. 4. Students will see more vacation days erased as the year progresses, keeping only four of the 22 days off they would have had through graduation had the strike not occurred.
And the legal gears were turning Monday on the process that could clear the path to a second strike.
The two sides presented arguments in a hearing as part of non-binding arbitration, a process mandated by state law after the first strike was staged. If either side rejects the arbiter’s proposal, expected some time in January, the teachers will be able to strike a second time this school year.
By state law, that strike would have to end in time to complete 180 days of school by June 30, so it likely would last about two weeks. That’s because the September strike had to end in time to complete 180 days by June 15, and once the first strike ended and the district reworked the school calendar, there was scant room for making up any more days outside of weekend classes.
Questions have risen regarding attendance over what was supposed to Thanksgiving vacation, with reports that many parents allowed students to skip school either because family plans had been set or a belief that the school work would be lax to fulfill the calendar.
Calls to the superintendent requesting attendance figures Monday were not returned.
Meanwhile, negotiators for both sides were in an all-day hearing Monday presenting evidence they contend justifies their last best offers at the negotiating table. Non-binding arbitration leaves the arbiter with only three choices: Recommend one of the last best offers put forth by the two sides or the fact-finder’s proposal.
Attorney Jack Dean, lead negotiator for the district, said the fact-finder’s proposal is already so old it’s almost certainly a non-starter because the two sides would have to start negotiating a new contract in January.
Dean said the presentations to the arbiter Monday were a bit technical. “The vast majority was just going through financial documents, the district’s audited financial statements, the current fund balance and how we got there, and projections of what effect the offers will have on the district,” he said. The teacher contract expired in 2010.