With the Snoqualmie Valley teachers union ratifying a labor contract Sunday, a strike has been averted and students will resume classes on Monday.
The Snoqualmie Valley Education Association approved a three-year agreement at Mount Si High School on Sunday night, said union spokesman Dale Folkerts.
Teachers voted 174 to 121 to accept the contract — a 59 to 41 percent split — after negotiators reached a tentative agreement earlier in the day.
Teachers will get a 2 percent raise each year.
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Instead of caps sought on class size, teachers accepted triggers in which they can choose one option from a menu if classes were to reach 26 or more students in kindergarten; 28 or more in grades 1 to 3; and 30 or more in grades 4 and 5.
They can choose either extra pay of $7 per day for each extra child the first year; $8 the second year; and $9 the third. Or they choose a half day of planning time per extra student per trimester or one hour of aide time per week for each extra student.
In addition, principals must work to maintain a balance of students between classes in each grade, Folkerts said. Teachers put the highest priority on class size over more money, believing “hard caps” were most important, he said.
Association President Lisa Radmer said the trigger language was the first to be included in a contract. “This is a big step forward for us,” she said.
But the language “doesn’t go far enough” to provide a quality education, Radmer said.
The split in the vote reflected the frustration of teachers, some of whom “spoke as parents,” Radmer said.
In a statement posted Sunday on the district’s Web site before the vote, Superintendent Joel Aune said, “We are very pleased to have reached agreement with the association today. It feels good to know that our teachers and students will be in school on Monday, looking ahead to a great school year in Snoqualmie Valley.”
Negotiations began in April and the teachers’ contract expired Aug. 31 without a new deal. The union represents 353 teachers in the Snoqualmie Valley School District; 295 turned out for the vote. The district serves about 6,200 students from Fall City, North Bend and Snoqualmie.
Class size in the district’s five elementary schools was the biggest issue.
Teachers wanted limits on the number of students per class, not just extra money for teachers who are assigned classes that exceed target enrollments.
On its website, the district said it has set boundaries for class sizes in elementary schools, although the limits are listed as “targets.” For example, a kindergarten class would have a target enrollment of 25 or fewer students.
“Teachers are finding it difficult to teach effectively,” Folkerts said. “The district had vigorously resisted trying to put limits on overcrowded classrooms.”
Students, who have been in school since last week, wouldn’t have had class Monday if the district and union hadn’t reached an agreement.