Bellingham teachers hit the picket line



Posted on September 2, 2011 at 6:31 AM

Updated Friday, Sep 2 at 11:30 AM

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- Summer vacation may extend for thousands of students in Bellingham. Teachers hit the picket line Friday as negotiations continue for a new contract with the district. 

The Bellingham School District and the teachers union met Thursday night until 9 p.m., but negotiators made no progress on a contract agreement. 

"We are cautiously optimistic that we will reach a contract today and hope to be back to school on Tuesday," said Shirley Potter, Bellingham Education Association president.

"I'm sorry that we're not starting promptly," she said told parents, "but we had some things to iron out, and with everything in place, we are going to do a better job as educators."

Teachers arrived on the picket line with signs in hand early Friday morning.

"We don't want to be out here, but unfortunately things broke down and we had no other recourse," said Dana Beatty, science teacher at Bellingham High School. "This is an issue of providing kids a quality education. These days things have become tougher and tougher in the public school system for teachers and students."

The sticking points in the contract negotiations, says the teachers union, are class sizes and time for professional development. The school district says it's over salaries. 

Both sides say they will work hard through the three-day holiday weekend to come up with a solution to the sticking points.

"We're meeting and working together and hoping to resolve the issues as soon as possible," said Tanya Rowe, spokesperson for Bellingham School District. "We will be continuing to be meet as long as necessary, even throughout the weekend as needed."

"I'm hopeful that it will be resolved today and school will start as soon as possible," said Beaty. "We are ready to go."

Classes for Bellingham schools are scheduled to begin Tuesday; meanwhile, schools and district buildings are closed Friday to the staff and public.