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Contract agreement important

Residents of the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District likely breathed a collective sigh of relief last week as a new labor agreement between the district’s teachers and the board of education was finalized.

The news couldn’t have come at a better time. The board and the Switzerland of Ohio Education Association had been negotiating terms of the contract for months. Teachers had continued to work under the terms of the old agreement, which expired in August.

During the negotiations process, which is done privately, the two sides had different assessments of the sticking points that were slowing things down. We will never know details of those disagreements, but what we do know is that representatives of both sides persisted — and compromised to reach a solution.

Because the negotiations had taken so long, members of the SOEA already had voted to authorize their leadership to issue a strike notice in January if it came to that point. While a teachers’ strike is never an ideal situation, a work stoppage during a school year already tremendously impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic would have amounted to a real crisis.

Students already have missed too many days of in-person instruction. Their lives and routines have been disrupted, their athletic activities have been canceled, and they are missing out on a great deal. Further disruption of the learning process — either virtual or in-person — likely would have had many negative consequences.

We do know a few details of the new contract agreement. Teachers will receive a 16 percent pay raise, doled out in increments over the life of the three-year contract. They also will be reimbursed for tuition payments if they opt to continue their own educations, which ultimately benefits their students. There will be no changes to teachers’ sick leave, personal leave or health insurance coverage.

One addition is a memorandum of understanding regarding remote learning. Teachers ho provide instruction in the classroom and then teach remote learning students afterward will receive and additional $18.75 per day.

According to union spokeswoman Karissa Wooddell, 95 percent of the SOEA members voted to ratify the contract. The board did even better, with a unanimous vote to approve the contract.

We applaud all involved for reaching an agreement that will keep teachers — and students — in class as much as possible.

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