CLARK COUNTY, Wash. — Editor's note: Story updated Thursday with the news that Camas educators had voted to ratify the tentative agreement and school will start Friday.
After six days on the picket line, the Camas Education Association came to a tentative agreement with the Camas School District late Wednesday night. The tentative two-year collective bargaining contract covers 450 CEA members.
The union said teachers and the district made a deal on class sizes, funding for student programs and cost of living adjustments. Union members voted "overwhelmingly" to ratify the agreement on Thursday, according to the CEA.
The Camas School District confirmed that classes will start Friday, now that the agreement has been ratified.
"We want to express deep appreciation for our dedicated teachers and the negotiation teams who worked tirelessly to reach an agreement that reflects our shared commitment to our students' well-being and educational experience," the district wrote in an email to parents Wednesday night. "The first day of school is always a special time, filled with anticipation and the promise of new opportunities. Thank you for your continued support, trust, and partnership. Together, we create an environment where our students can thrive and succeed. We wish you and your family a fantastic start to the school year."
If the union's full membership votes to reject the tentative agreement, the teachers will go back to the picket lines.
In the Evergreen School District, the largest in Southwest Washington, the strike continues — no deal has been reached. Teachers remain off the job and school is canceled for Thursday there too.
Outside the Camas School District administrative offices, teachers and some of their supporters spent Wednesday picketing the district, while negotiations continued.
Some parents came out to support the teachers, including some moms of kids with special needs.
“I never felt like he was being left behind and I just can’t imagine not supporting the teachers that made that happen,” said Heather Perry.
Perry said one of her boys has anxiety and ADHD, and the teachers have the right asking for more support for that and other critical issues.
“My message is you need to spend our money the way we want you to spend it. We want our money to go to the teachers, to lower class sizes, to P.E. and libraries and it’s our money that’s where we want it to go,” said Perry.
KGW also spent time in front of Evergreen's Covington Middle School, where the picket signs and actions look much the same. There was even a little dancing, to keep spirits up.
Britta Hobbs is a choral music teacher who has spent her entire 22-year career at Covington. She said the strike is necessary.
“Nobody wants to strike, not one person I know wants that but we’re willing to be out here to get the support we need to support students in the classroom, and that’s what this is really all about,” said Hobbs.
At a nearby park a couple of boys were working off some energy with another day out of school, by riding their bikes along the path. Their mother supports teachers but also wants the strike to end.
“I do want them to get their pay they’re requesting but in the meantime [my boys] are running out of things to do,” said Georne Padmore. “But I do want them back in school soon.”
Coming to terms with salary increases is also part of the equation at both districts. And so is the minimum number of days students must be in class for the school year — that number is 180 in Washington. And now the make up days are adding up.