OLD FORGE—For nearly 2 hours, members of the Old Forge teachers union and school administrators met at Old Forge High School Tuesday night.
Once again, they failed to come to an agreement.
“It’s frustrating both as a board member and as a parent. I have children in this district. I unfortunately I want the children to be able to be in school, I want the teachers to be able to teach. My kids are here, I have stake in the district and we just can’t give them what they want and it’s very unfortunate,” said Old Forge School Board President Deborah DeSando, after the meeting.
Teachers in Old Forge have been without a contract since 2010.
School administrators said despite repeated meetings, they cannot agree on a new contract. They said the main sticking point is health benefits.
School officials said the district cannot afford to have teachers pay nothing but the cost of prescription co-payments.
Union members said they have offered several ideas inluding increasing co-payments to help the district financially.
“No matter how much money we’ve offered to save them on healthcare, on retirement issues, on salary, there’s always one more hoop to jump through. We’re not gonna play that game anymore,” said John Holland from the Pennsylvania State Education Association, for the union.
Teachers in the Old Forge District plan to strike the day after Labor Day.
The state requires the strike end in time for students to get out of school by June 15th.
Some students were disappointed with news of the strike.
“It kind of stinks for us because we`re probably going to get out later now and I was excited we were going to get out early so I could go on an early vacation because I was going to go to the beach and now I`m probably going to have to stay in school later,” said Maria Stefano, a student in the district.
Some parents are frustrated, too.
Roy Gonzalez said if things do not change, he may move his child out of the district.
“You definitely want to go somewhere where you can trust the teachers are going to be there. Like I said, it`s very hard to make everyone happy and I understand what we`re doing, I`m not against them in any kind of way but at the same time you have to think about the kids. They come first,” said Gonzalez.
Union leaders said the strike could be “lengthy,” though they will negotiate again if the district calls them back to negotiate further.