About 7,000 students in the State College Area School District are likely to make the most of this week, the last stretch of their summer vacation.
Signs of school starting are approaching — the Grange Fair starts this week, and Penn State students will return to town.
And perhaps the biggest indicator of all: Teachers head back to their school buildings for three days of in-service sessions midweek.
But for State College Area teachers, they will be working these in-service days, and the first day of school next week, without a contract.
Teachers in the State College Area Education Association have been without a contract since the last one expired June 30, 2011. Negotiations have been ongoing for 20 months, starting in January 2011.
But, the union president indicated, no work stoppage or strike is in the works.
“Our teachers return to the classroom without a contract and will strive to deliver our best and professional service to our students,” said Holli Jo Warner, the president of the union and a sixth-grade teacher at Park Forest Middle School.
There are 595 teachers in the union. The district employs about 610 teachers.
Neither the union nor district administration would discuss the details of the negotiations, what could be sticking points or how soon they expect there could be a pact. The sides agreed to keep the details of the negotiations private.
They released a brief joint statement after the school board adjourned into an executive session Monday night to discuss the negotiations.
“We are continuing to negotiate in good faith and are working toward an agreement,” the district and the union said.
Superintendent Bob O’Donnell said he couldn’t discuss the tone of the talks or any progress that has been made.
School board member Jim Pawelczyk, who is on the district’s negotiating team, declined to discuss specific issues that have resulted in the impasse so far.
“We’re continuing to work together in good faith,” he said. “We’ll be done when we’re done.”
Last year, before the contract expired, board members said publicly that teachers need to contribute more toward health care costs.
The district has just changed health care providers, saving more than $800,000 by going with HealthAmerica for a three-year, $14 million contract. That’s expected to lower health care costs districtwide by 5.8 percent.
The district’s budget for 2012-13 accounted for salaries and benefits under the terms of the last year of the last contract. It’s not been revealed if the district budgeted for more in the event the sides agree to a contract that gets board approval.
In the meantime, incoming high school freshmen had an orientation session on Thursday, and some schools are hosting open houses or meet-your-teacher events this week. School starts Aug. 28.
Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT