AKRON, Ohio — The Board of Education and administration at Akron Public Schools is preparing for a potential teacher strike, just three days after students are expected to return after winter break.
The Akron Education Association announced the 10-day strike notice early Thursday after contract negotiations with the school board failed and the first half of the year was plagued with violent disruptions to education such as student fights, stabbings, guns in school and teachers' assaulted.
While there is still a chance that the union and the board could come to an agreement before the scheduled strike on Jan. 9, both sides are preparing for the worst. Friday, APS administrators released a Strike FAQ page.
Answering questions, “What is a 10-day strike authorization and what happens during this time, will learning continue during a strike and what if my family has no options for childcare.”
In the, “What are the outstanding issues or remaining negotiation topics?” APS said, in part:
Both parties have reached tentative agreement on a number of important issues. While there are several remaining issues, the key issues appear to be wages, health insurance, additional unrestricted personal leave days, and more specific provisions for the definition of student assault as outlined in the impartial fact finder's report.
Akron Public Schools’ parent Teresa Ridgeway said the wording to the answer of that question is one of many things that upset her.
“They push school safety to the very back. They want to put teachers' wages and health insurance up front and that's not what is at the forefront of this battle. It's school safety,” she said. “They keep twisting this to make it like the teachers are, you know, looking for just wages or for insurance, so that it's selfish reasons and it's not.”
The page said if teachers strike, learning will continue online:
Our scholars will continue their education while teachers are away from our school buildings. There will be an instructional plan and recommended daily schedule that will allow students to pivot to online learning. This will include opportunities for students to meet online with an adult and opportunities to complete online lessons independently at their own pace. This approach aligns with our approved district blended learning plan. While in-person learning is obviously preferred, our educational community has developed extensive experience in helping students learn virtually.
Ridgeway said the answer is too vague.
“What is an adult? Does this adult have a criminal background check? Who is going to be on the other end of the computer if my child is at home and they’re meeting with my child. Who is this person? Are they qualified as an educator,” she asked.
News 5 reached out to Mark Williamson, the communication director for the district, he said the "adults" are non-union district employees and building administrators.
APS said, under Ohio law, students are required to work online during a strike.
A parent, who wished to remain anonymous, told News 5 her child won’t be participating in online learning and, instead, will be standing with Akron Education Association.
“I will not send my child to school, nor will they do any sort of school-related actives or homework of any kind,” she said. “I hope the teachers get everything on their wish list.”
Ridgeway echoed her sentiment.
“They’re trying to bully and scare parents into conforming to this online schooling that they going to put together while the teachers are striking, but really what we parents should be doing is standing with these teachers and saying, no, we are not participating in this,” she said.
Other important topics to note from the FAQ page:
Breakfast and lunch will be provided for students through grab-and-go meal bags.
There will not be after-school actives operated by the district because the teachers make up majority of club advisors, this includes sports.
Staff will be available for mental health and education support.
If you have no options for childcare, APS said:
We understand that some families will need childcare support. A limited number of seats will be reserved at Student Support Center locations for families that need last resort coverage. If no agreement is in place, and a strike appears imminent, APS will launch a pre-registration process for families as quickly as possible.
Student Support Centers for pre-registered students in Grades K-5 will be in operation beginning at 8:30 am and closing at 2:30 pm daily during the strike period. Students may be dropped off beginning at 8:20 am and must be released to parents/guardians for the return home no later than 2:40 pm daily.
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