SANDUSKY Teachers in the Perkins Local Schools District welcomed students back from the summer with picket signs yesterday, the first day of a strike over the lack of a contract after 17 months of negotiations.
Bob Myer, a teacher and spokesman for the Perkins Education Association, said the union is ready at any time to return to the table to settle our differences in a way that is fair and equitable to our members.
The teachers struck after reaching an impasse in talks Sunday night.
Superintendent Sharon Buccieri said the first day was hectic but normal for opening day. Attendance was 80 percent, compared with a normal 82 percent for the same time last year, she said.
The first day of classes involved only a quarter of the kindergarten classes and freshman.
It was pretty tough this morning as the kids were rolling in, Mr. Myer said. But we re committed.
The real test for the district to cope with the strike will come when high school classes resume tomorrow and the lower grades begin Friday. The start of kindergarten classes will be staggered through the week to ease concerns of the little newcomers, Ms. Buccieri said.
The superintendent said no incidents on the picket line were reported. Pickets were outside the district s four buildings and the administration offices, the union said.
It was a very peaceful day and we re grateful for that, Ms. Buccieri said.
In a letter to parents last week, the school board said it would keep the buildings open and replacement teachers would be in the classrooms and as many extracurricular activities would be provided as possible, Ms. Buccieri wrote.
Attendance is still required, she said, and the school day and ending times will remain the same.
She said nearly all teachers were either on the picket line or performing behind-the-scenes work such as preparing food or providing day care.
The strike vote followed a last-minute round of discussions late Sunday night to stave off a strike by teachers on the first day of school today.
The teachers earlier had issued a 10-day warning to the school board of their intent to go on strike if both sides did not reach a contract.
The walkout included 131 teachers, guidance counselors, and librarians. Teachers in the school district have worked without a contract since the last school year.
Tonight s decision is the most difficult decision of my career, Mr. Myer said in a statement after the strike was announced.
Officials in the suburban Sandusky school district, which has 2,177 students, have said that the district s five-year financial forecast projects at $674,735 deficit next year, and a $2 million deficit in 2008.