While students in all but three Luzerne County school districts will head back to class this week, the school reunion at Wyoming Area is set to be a short one, with a teachers strike scheduled for Sept. 3, three days after the start of school Aug. 28.
That’s the only strike officially set, but the risk of similar action looms over four other districts where teacher contracts are being negotiated: Greater Nanticoke Area, Hanover Area, Hazleton Area and Wilkes-Barre Area. Two education entities that are run jointly by multiple districts also have teacher contracts under negotiation: Wilkes-Barre Area Career and Technology Center, which serves five districts, and the Luzerne Intermediate Unit, which provides various services, primarily special education.
Wyoming Area teachers announced the September strike in July, hoping nearly two-months notice would help create a break in what they contend have been stalled negotiations that began at the start of 2010. The teachers contract expired August of that year.
But at a school board meeting Tuesday both sides spelled out sticking points that have prevented a settlement. Unless one is reached this week, the strike will start the day after Labor Day.
The holiday, once the ironclad signal to the end of summer vacation for students, has long lost that luster. It’s far more common locally for districts to begin the school year up to a week before Labor Day, in part because early starts help in timing lessons to peak when high-stakes state standardized tests are administered in the spring.
Four area districts begin school Monday: Crestwood, Lake-Lehman, Northwest Area and Wyoming Valley West. Dallas opens the doors Tuesday, while three start classes Wednesday: Pittston Area, Wilkes-Barre Area and Wyoming Area.
Of the three districts starting classes after Labor Day, Greater Nanticoke Area set the first day of classes for Sept. 4, while Hanover Area and Hazleton Area will start the next day, Sept. 5.
Hazleton’s late start is due in part to the district’s new “Hazleton Area Academy of Science,” the region’s first “STEM” high school, short for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The school’s mission is to focus on those fields. The academy was launched in limited form in ninth and tenth grades in existing schools, but will move into its own building this year in the CAN-DO Corporate Center in Butler Township.
The building is still “a construction site,” Superintendent Francis Antonelli said, but work is expected to be done in time for the Sept. 5 opening.