Classes cancelled Monday at Kent schools

Classes cancelled Monday at Kent schools »Play Video
Teachers waved picket signs Friday outside Kent School District headquarters.
KENT, Wash. - There will be no classes Monday in the Kent School District, after teachers and administrators failed to reach agreement on a new labor contract, the teacher's union says.

And with more than 27,000 students in the district, a lot of families are scrambling for back-up plans.

"Oooh, it's tough - it's very tough - especially scheduling conflicts and so forth," says one parent, Ernie Hernandez. "And not knowing when he's going to be able to go back to school - that's the tough one."

Another parent, Lillian Melamed, says, "It puts a burden on us. I have to go to work tomorrow, and my husband does, too. And finding someone to care for him is going to be tough."

Negotiations are still under way between the district and striking teachers, and will continue on Monday as well, said Lisa Brackin Johnson, president of the Kent Education Association.

Kent teachers voted overwhelmingly to strike last week after impasse was reached in the negotiations. In the meantime, teachers wave signs, wanting the community to know what they want.

Teachers say they want smaller classes and a smaller workload, so the students get more attention. Plus, they want fewer meetings to spend more after-school time with kids in need.

"It's very frustrating when students need that help I'm not available to give them, that time that they need," says seventh-grade social studies teacher J.P. Frame.

"I have 37, 36, and 34 in a classroom -- too much is right, just me in that classroom with all those kids," said teacher Nicole Wemothy.

But the district says reducing class sizes would cost almost $3 million - money that's just not there.

The strike was approved by the 86.4 percent of the more than 1,500 members of the Kent Education Association who cast a vote on Wednesday.

The teachers hit the picket lines at 7 a.m. Thursday in opposition to the district's 40-page proposal.

"We're very disappointed that our teachers chosen to strike," said district spokesperson Becky Hanks.

The district said it offered an $8.5 million compensation package, promising 3 percent pay increases in the first year.