Teachers in the Shaler Area School District began a walkout Tuesday after the breakdown of contract talks with the district.
Union and Shaler Area School District officials met for about six hours Monday with a state-appointed mediator, but were unable to reach an agreement on salaries and monthly health care contributions.
The Allegheny County school district announced on its website that all classes in the district would be canceled Tuesday -- which was supposed to be the first day for students.
Melissa Ravas, president of the Shaler Area Education Association, said teachers were expecting a new offer Monday, but didn't receive one. She said teachers will keep picketing until a settlement is reached or they are ordered back to work by the state.
"We came in yesterday hoping to negotiate and the district came in empty-handed and brought nothing," said Ravas, who is also a high school math teacher.
The nearly 400 teachers have been working under the provisions of a contract that expired in the summer of 2011.
“We want to be in the classroom with the kids. We’ve been patient, and after two years, this is where we are,” Ravas said.
While the Pennsylvania Department of Education determines the official end-of-strike date, district officials estimate a first strike would end on Sept. 20. Classes would resume Sept. 23 for the roughly 4,650 students in the district.
School district superintendent Dr. Wesley Shipley told Channel 11’s Lori Houy that negotiations will continue Wednesday.
“Getting the children back to school is my number one concern. I’m optimistic, but it takes two people to come to the table to reach an agreement. We want a contract that’s fair to taxpayers and fair to teachers,” Shipley said.
Some taxpayers told Houy that they support the strike, while other said they didn’t.
“I think they should go back to work and give these kids an education. For what we pay in taxes, this shouldn’t be going on,” taxpayer Carmella Wise said.
School activities will continue as scheduled, although officials said there could be some modifications. Volunteers and administrators will help with sports.