Centralia kids are getting a few more days of summer than their parents bargained for.
After teachers went on strike for the first time ever in the Centralia School District this week, classes are cancelled for Wednesday.
“Right now, classes are cancelled until further notice,” said Ed Petersen, public relations and communications coordinator for the district. “But we are asking people to stay tuned to the normal ways that we would make a snow day announcement … Pay attention to any announcements to the contrary. If we can hold classes on Thursday, we will hold classes on Thursday and Friday.”
The Centralia School Board’s special board meeting, which was scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday evening, was cancelled roughly 20 minutes before it was set to begin.
“They were in violation of the Open Public Meetings Act,” said Lauri Johnson, who is a co-chair of the Centralia Education Association. “They did not post on the outside of the building that they were having a meeting in that venue.”
The next school board meeting is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday in the district office board room.
“There won’t be classes tomorrow,” Petersen said. “We’ll have to see what happens after they pass or don’t pass the resolution — whatever happens tomorrow at the board meeting.”
Tuesday’s bargaining session began at 10:30 a.m. was still taking place at 5 p.m. Superintendent Mark Davalos and school board member Lori Fast were at the bargaining table.
“They’re singularly focused on bringing a strike to a close and getting kids back into the classroom,” Petersen said.
Johnson didn’t have an estimate for how long bargaining would go on Wednesday evening. When asked how long CEA members were prepared to strike, she said “as long as necessary.”
“They (the district) have ample money,” Johnson said. “We just went through their budget one more time and shared with the mediators what they have.”
Although the district didn’t announce that classes were cancelled until Tuesday evening, it posted to its Facebook page Tuesday morning that all school offices would be closed during the strike and that the district could not accept registration forms.
“Concerned parents should begin making plans now just in case we are not able to open schools,” the post read. “The board, our administrators, and our teachers all want to welcome children back to the classrooms as soon as possible. All sides are working hard to make this happen.”
The agenda for tomorrow’s meeting includes an updated resolution for imminent strike action.
After a Sunday-afternoon special school board meeting, Resolution No. 2018-25, “Imminent Strike Action,” failed to pass on a tied, 2-2 vote.
Board President Amy Buzzard and board member Lori Fast voted against the resolution, while Vice President Robert Fuller and board member Jami Lund voted for it. Board member Kim Ashmore was not present.
The version of the resolution that failed included a section that could have hurt teachers financially.
Part of the wording would have required employees who took sick leave during a strike to provide an affidavit that certified their claim and a doctor’s note.
The old version also stated, “participation in a strike … may result in the District suspending the payment of health insurance premiums for all employees involved in a strike or work stoppage. Striking employees will be responsible for paying their own insurance premiums during such a suspension of payments.”
Although the teachers’ contracts expired Friday, the Centralia Education Association didn’t announce until Monday that its members would go on strike. The local teachers union and the district have been bargaining since April. Centralia is the only school district in Lewis County that has not come to at least a tentative agreement with its teachers.