The two unions that represent employees in Kenai Peninsula schools rejected an offer Tuesday from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, and countered with their own, which the district is evaluating prior to another round of bargaining.
Negotiations between the school district and the Kenai Peninsula Education Association and Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association have foundered for over a year. In May, union members voted in favor of striking unless the district agreed to modify its healthcare offerings to make them cheaper for employees.
The district on Tuesday floated an offer that shifted healthcare costs further onto the district’s plate, said spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff.
KPEA President David Brighton said the offer did not go far enough, however.
“The district made an offer to us which was a step in the right direction,” he said. “They reduced the premium cost a little bit, but the increase in deductibles just made it … unaffordable.”
The two parties will likely meet again after the district hears back from its healthcare broker, whom the district has asked to analyze the unions’ counteroffer.
In the meantime, the unions remain willing to strike.
“We are preparing for a strike,” Brighton said. “But hopefully we can come up with a tentative agreement and avoid a strike. … The teachers do not want to go on strike. They want to get in their classrooms and get to know their students and have a smooth start to the year.”
By law, the unions must provide 72 hours advance notice of a work stoppage.
In the event of a strike the district will issue an “emergency schools closure.” According to the district, this means that every school in the district, including Connections Homeschool, charter and alternative schools, and distance delivery programs will close.
An emergency school closure also encompasses all before and after school activities, sports, community school activities, pools, and any rentals or usage of school facilities. The emergency closure includes Boys and Girls Club activities in every district school or facility.
The cancellation of all high school sporting activities are subject to the rules of the activities associations and affiliate region boards. These contests may or may not be able to be made up.
The district also says school session days and staff work days that are missed due to a strike must be made up. The number of days that schools are closed due to a strike will be added to the end of the 2019-2020 school year calendar in May.