Redbank students return to class; teachers strike goes on

Students in the Redbank Valley School District on Wednesday did something they have not done in over a month — they went to school.

The Redbank Valley Education Association called for a strike that began Sept. 13. In order for the district to meet the state-mandated 180 days of education by the end of June, the teachers and support staff were required to return Wednesday.

Both sides in the dispute said they were happy to have the schools reopen.

“We are excited for the return of students and their educational team,” Redbank Valley School Board member Chad Shaffer said. “Our new administrative team is anticipating a very successful remainder of the school year.”

Patrick Andrekovich, the Pennsylvania State Education Association official representing the unions, said “The Teachers are very excited to be back in the classroom with their students.”

The return, however, does not mean the 3-year-old labor impasse has been resolved.

“It is unfortunate we were not able to reach a settlement, but I do feel that the possible switch to a new health care consortium will help,” Andrekovich said.

“Our next step is to go to mandatory nonbinding arbitration, since we did not go to voluntary nonbinding arbitration. I would expect to hear more details later this week.”

Shaffer said the district and the association both have “demonstrated interest” in potentially switching health insurance consortiums.

“If that happens and produces savings to the district and employees, it could help with a settlement,” he said.

The school board, Shaffer said, passed a resolution this week that enables Allegheny County Schools Health Insurance Consortium (ACSHIC) to calculate what Redbank Valley’s buy-in would be to enter its consortium.

“We have been told to anticipate that answer within 60 days,” Shaffer said. “The district is interested in changing to ACSHIC because of the difference in how it is organized and managed, and how this translates to savings.”

He said the ACSHIC board is composed of 50% district employee representatives and 50% district administrative and board member representatives.

“This board is able to enact health insurance changes on an annual basis to better control costs, compared to our current model, which does so only at the time of a new contract,” Shaffer said. Their methods have produced smaller annual increases in health insurance premiums.

“We anticipate the change could provide savings to the district and employees.”