Akron Public Schools will hold online classes if teachers strike
Akron Public schools is poised to provide online instruction for students to learn at their homes if Akron teachers strike in January.
Teachers and other licensed professionals who are members of the Akron Education Association union have threatened to strike at 12:01 am Jan. 9.
Classes are set to resume Jan. 6 after the winter break, so it is possible students will return to school that Friday, only to have teachers strike the following Monday.
The Akron school board approved resolutions at a special meeting Thursday night in response to the Akron teachers union earlier in the day issuing a 10-day notice of its intent to strike. State law requires public employees to give a 10-day strike notice to the State Employee Relations Board before a work stoppage.
Akron Public Schools:Akron teachers union ready to strike Jan. 9 as contract negotiations stall
The APS resolutions deal with the 20,000-student school district making preparations for a possible work stoppage, including one that authorizes Superintendent Christine Fowler-Mack to implement a strike “action plan” that includes online instruction at home.
Parents and caregivers of students with special needs who need various support services will be instructed to contact the district’s Office of Special Education, said Mark Williamson, the district’s director of communications said.
Information about the plan will be posted on the district’s website, https://www.akronschools.com, Williamson said.
The Akron district’s plan also includes the hiring of substitute employees for the strike’s duration. The resolution does not make it clear what the substitute employees would do. School district officials said the plan is still being developed.
Another resolution authorizes Fowler-Mack to contract with Huffmaster Crisis Response LLC to provide “such security and personnel services as the Superintendent deems necessary and appropriate.”
The Michigan-based company provides strike services, including security replacement staffing, according to its website.
There’s no plan at this time to use Huffmaster to supply substitute teachers, Williamson said.
The action-plan resolution also allows Fowler-Mack to hire “substitute employees” at the rate now in effect for substitute employees.
Other items in the action-plan resolution include providing updates to parents through “all-calls and written communications.”
Columbus City Schools—the state’s largest school district—provided online instruction when its teachers went on strike for three days at the beginning of the school year last August.
The Columbus Dispatch reported last year that some families didn’t have their students log on.
“It’s a virtual picket line; we are not going to cross it,” Sharon Kim of Columbus’ Clintonville neighborhood told the newspaper.
The newspaper reported that nine city of Columbus recreation centers opened to allow students to virtually log in during the strike, using the wi-fi at the centers.
The Akron Education Association union issued the strike notice Thursday morning, saying in a news release that it had done so “after attempts at resolving outstanding (contract) issues through federal mediation failed.”
APS contract negotiations:What are the main sticking points in Akron Public Schools’ contract talks with teachers?
The school board’s resolutions were hashed out during a more than 2-hour executive (private) session of the school board Thursday night.
Ryan Pendleton, school district treasurer, provided the titles of the resolutions via text to the Beacon Journal at 8:20 p.m. Thursday, minutes after the school board voted on them following the executive session.
Pendleton provided the complete resolutions—after he had time to work on them—Friday morning.
All of the board members at Thursday’s meeting—board President NJ Akbar, Derrick Hall, Bruce Alexander, Diana Autry, and Valerie McKitrick—approved the resolutions.
Board members Carla Jackson and Job Esau Perry were not at executive session and were not present for the vote, Pendleton said.
Teachers and other licensed professionals have been working under terms of their old labor contract since it expired June 30.
The union represents about 2,800 teachers, school psychologists, librarians and other licensed professionals.
A major sticking point in ongoing contract negotiations is how the district defines “assault,” with teachers speaking out at school board meetings and elsewhere about student behavior.
‘Contact’ or ‘injury?’‘Contact’ or ‘injury.’ Definition of assault a key dispute in APS talks with teachers
Other issues include raises that could add between $15 million and $20 million a year to the district’s annual budget by 2025 and employee health care costs.
The district issued a statement Thursday — after the union issued the strike notice — that said its negotiators “are prepared to stay at the table day in and day out to resolve this situation and keep children learning.”
The statement, issued by Williamson, the APS communications director, continued, “We hope the Akron Education Association shares this commitment with us.”
Pat Shipe, president of the Akron Education Association, said in an interview Thursday, after the strike notice was submitted, that talks broke down this week when negotiators for the Akron school board did not respond to a union counterproposal.
Negotiators for the union and the school board met with a federal mediator Dec. 20 and this past Tuesday in an attempt to reach agreement on a new labor contract for AEA members.
Contract talks head to mediation:Akron teachers reject recommendations for new labor contract, say ‘schools are not safe’
“We do not believe they are engaging in good faith negotiations,” Shipe said.
The plan is to strike Jan. 9 unless a tentative agreement on a new contract has been reached before then, she said.