As teachers in the Bethel Park School District prepare to end their 6-week long strike Monday, both sides will hold another bargaining session this morning.
Walter Michalski, staff representative of the American Federation of Teachers and a member of the Bethel Park teachers union negotiating team, says they met for 5 and a half hours yesterday (Thursday)......"We're still trying to iron out issues. There's still a lot left to do and the gap is still wide, but we're keeping at it."
Michalski admitted that "it's very hard to say that any true progress has been made" during the work stoppage. He says the strike has obviously brought the community into the situation for the good and for the bad..."Obviously it's been a big disruption to the education of the children and a disruption to the community. People feel very strongly about it."
He added that there is more information out in the community now about the contract dispute which still centers over pay, health care benefits and length of the school day.
Last week the school district rejected a proposal by the teachers union to extend the old contract for up to 3 years, but with $2,300 annual pay hikes for the teachers.
However, the district said that annual increase was more that the district was offering during negotiations.
Michalski says the union has sent a letter to the district saying the teachers will return to the classrooms Monday and abide by Act 88, which requires 180 class days by June 15.
The next step in the process is mandatory non-binding arbitration. Michalski says that process could take till the middle or end of January and there can be no strike during that time.