FAIRPLAY, Colo. – Citing silence from district officials on resuming talks, the union representing teachers in the Park County School District (PCSD) said they would go on strike Monday for better pay.
The district responded by announcing on its website that all classes will be canceled Monday.
The South Park Education Association said in a release that PCSD teachers are planning to walk off the job Monday if the district fails to take action before then.
The union and the district have been negotiating a new agreement since July. The teachers union is demanding an increase in compensation to curtail what they call a "teacher retention crisis" in the district.
Doug Freeman, a 4th grade teacher, and member of the South Park Education Association, said teachers who moved to Park County years ago know the cost of living was different.
"Now, when we have openings, (prospective) teachers come and look, and say, 'I can’t afford to find a place to live or to rent,'" he said.
Freeman said the cost of living is so high in Fairplay, which he said is now a bedroom community of Breckenridge, that some current teachers "have to decide between buying milk or eggs."
In their news release, Board President Kim Bundgaard said a New Professional Agreement was structured to provide several mechanisms for negotiating salaries and working conditions "in the future."
She also said that "across-the-board raises" have been provided to all employees.
Freeman said the teachers union gave the board a proposal raising salaries for all employees and that the district, "never came back with a counter proposal."
"That tells me that... they value having more money in the bank than actually spending it on students," he said.
Bundgaard said the district was not formally notified of SPEA's decision and learned of Monday's planned strike through the media.
Before classes were canceled, one parent told Denver 7 that she was going to send her son to school, "even with a broken toe," because she had to go to work.
Another parent said she was going to keep both of her kids home.
"If I were to send them to school, I don't know who the people are that would be monitoring the children or if they understand the lockdown drills," Kristin Farr said.
Farr told Denver7 that lockdown drills are "super important."
"We've had a couple of incidents up here in this small community, where it's been a bit alarming," she said.
Although classes have been canceled for students, Bundgaard said school operations for staff will remain operational as a regular workday.
"The district recognizes the inconvenience that these recent actions have caused and will continue with these communications during this difficult time," she said in a statement.
The union said its members would picket throughout the day Monday beginning at 7:00 a.m. at the Park County Schools Building.
Freeman said there are 41 teachers in the district and that 30 of them are represented by the SPEA.
There are nearly 600 students enrolled in the Park County School District.