EDWARDSVILLE — School will start on Aug. 15 regardless of the strike vote, according to the administration, but it may not be for long.
A letter to parents from Superintendent Ed Hightower clarified that while the teachers approved a 10-day notice of intent to strike, the earliest day teachers could strike would be Thursday, Aug. 23.
The Illinois Education Association confirmed that no official strike date is set at this time.
"We continue to be disappointed and very frustrated that it has come to this," said union co-president Sallie Clark. "As far as we're concerned, we're being forced into this action by a school board that's proposing the cut the educational quality at the exact time it needs to be enhanced."
Teachers voted Wednesday evening to reject the district's offer of a salary freeze for the first year and what are called "step increases" on the second and third years.
Step increases generally are increases based on seniority and/or achieving higher levels of certification or education. The step increases average out at about 2 percent, Hightower said.
The teachers' counter-offer was a 0.25 percent increase in the base salary plus step increases for the first year, and a 0.5 percent increase plus step increases for the second and third years, Hightower said. That would total about $2.3 million over the three-year term of the contract.
Clark said they are meeting with crisis management teams from the Illinois Education Association and would be contacting Hightower to schedule more negotiations.
"The mood of the membership is very good," Clark said. "They feel we need to do what we need to do for our students, to make sure we can provide that quality education."
The IEA, however, said that the district declared an "impasse" on July 26 even though another negotiation session was scheduled for July 30, before the union vote on Aug. 1. They said the board "did not believe it was necessary" to meet on July 30.
Board president Greg Roosevelt has said the district has already made its "last, best" offer to the teachers.
The teachers have maintained that while salary is a concern, class sizes are their primary issue. Under the current contract, class sizes are limited at 23 for kindergarten; 24-28 for elementary; 29 for middle school and 34 for high school. If a class goes over the limit, another teacher must be hired.
The district wants to add two to three students to the limit at each elementary and middle school level and remove the 165-student limit on each high school teacher.
Hightower said the current language is too restrictive. He said in January, two more students enrolled in fourth grade and under the contract, the district had to hire two more teachers. He called it a "common occurrence."
Hightower also said the district does not anticipate that class sizes will reach the contractual limits.
School is scheduled to begin Aug. 15.
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2501.