PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Educators in Ridgefield went on strike Friday, citing unsafe staffing levels, crowded classes and low pay.

The strike went into effect after the Ridgefield Education Association, which represents 200 teachers and staff in the district, failed to reach an agreement with the Ridgefield School District.

Educators for Ridgefield School District strike on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022
Educators for Ridgefield School District strike outside Sunset Intermediate School on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022 (KOIN).

Employees began picketing at schools across the district Friday morning. Joe Thayer, a 6th grade math teacher at Sunset Intermediate School and crisis coordinator for REA, was among those participating.

Thayer said teachers and staff want additional funding for mental health support and special education for students.

“The students that have the most needs have the hardest time learning,” said Thayer. “Sometimes it’s medical or psychological reasons. But these are kids that we love and we all see these kids.”

In a press release, REA claims that while progress towards an agreement has been made, the school district refuses to provide additional funding for mental health support, special education improvements and a “better program” for student interventions.

“The district has been slow walking this,” said Thayer. “They have made a lot of progress recently, which is great, but we are still not where we need to be. We’ve been really pushing and trying to avoid this, especially these last few weeks.”

The strike was initially set to happen if a deal was not reached Wednesday, however, union members agreed to meet with district officials again Thursday. That bargaining session, however, did not result in an agreement.

The REA executive board voted on Sept. 5 to begin a strike if they failed to reach an agreement by Friday.

Meanwhile, the district officials announced schools will be closed until further notice.

The Ridgefield School District posted their most recent offer on their website for a 3-year deal that would go through August 31, 2025. Among the highlights: All employees would get a 7.5% raise the first year, a 4.5% raise in the second year, and 3% in the last year of the deal.

KOIN 6 has reached out to the school district for comment.