CAMAS, Wash. (KOIN) — As teachers continued their strike in Camas, the Evergreen School District announced their first day of classes on Wednesday is canceled “due to a teachers strike.”
The giant statement on the Evergreen School District website states, “All schools closed August 30 due to teachers strike.”
The Evergreen School District released a statement to KOIN 6 News regarding the strike.
“The district is disappointed that due to the teachers strike, our students’ return to school will be delayed. The district bargaining team will continue to negotiate with the union to try and reach an agreement that is fair to our teachers and is affordable and sustainable. The goal is to reach an agreement that gets our children back into the classroom as soon as possible and provides them with the long-term support they need to have a successful educational experience.”
In a press release sent out to families, the district said that schools will be “closed until further notice.”
The Camas School District and the Camas Education Association did not negotiate on Tuesday, so the strike will continue into a third day on Wednesday. Superintendent Dr. John Anzalone said he hopes a deal can be reached by next Wednesday at the latest.
Camas teachers are hoping for smaller classrooms from kindergarten through 2nd grade.
“Even though I’m a high school teacher,” Mark Gardner said, “if we can have a solid foundation for learning by the time those kids get to me, then they’re well prepared for success.”
It’s a different story in Battle Ground and Evergreen, where the school year is scheduled to begin on Wednesday.
Teachers in Battle Ground have the lowest entry pay of any school district in Clark County. The Battle Ground Education Association told KOIN 6 News they’re losing teachers to other districts because of it.
Battle Ground wants their special education teachers to be able to collaborate with paraprofessionals. They also say the growth in the region means high schools, especially, are starting the year loaded beyond the state-recommended guidelines.
“We need more teachers but at the same time they’re not willing to pay what we should have,” said Kim Bettger with the Battle Ground Education Association. Teachers, she said, are not getting paid “for the work we’re doing so they’re going to other districts.”
In the Evergreen School District, the education association said there are more than 100 vacant paraprofessionals to help with special education students.
Kristie Peak with the Evergreen Education Association said she thinks “partly it’s due to the pandemic. But I also think it’s just due to this complex world we all live in. It’s hard for kids. They need a little bit of support.”
Leighann Powers, an Evergreen parent, told KOIN 6 she saw this coming for months now.
“I wasn’t surprised,” she said. “I know this is ongoing and the district needs to step up.”
Other parents say even as they navigate having the kids home longer, they’re behind teachers every step of the way.
“One hundred percent behind them,” Ricki Bridge said. “The district needs to do their job, they need to bargain.”
Meanwhile, Battle Ground wants base pay increased. It’s more complicated in Evergreen and Camas, where they’re focusing on how inflation is calculated.
The education associations want raises tied to the Consumer Price Index, the traditional inflation measure for items like food and groceries and mainly for urban areas like Portland or Seattle.
Washington funds schools based on a second measure the state uses for rural districts called the Implicit Price Deflator. For Camas, the CPI is 8.9% and their IPR is 3.7%.
“It means a loss in real wages,” Peak said.
Camas’ Anzalone said, “In order to keep our district financially solvent, we need to go with the lower rate. It just makes sense to me.”
Evergreen’s website shows teachers are among the highest paid in the county. Battle Ground’s site notes they have some of the smaller class sizes in the region.
“We support them, because that’s what they need,” said Battle Ground Education Association President Kim Bettger. “But in this district, we still have that small town feel so because of that it was important for them to be back with their students.”
Officials with Evergreen school districts were not available for interviews.
KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story.