The Gahanna-Jefferson school board and the union representing striking teachers voted to ratify a new contract Sunday, ending a strike that looked much different because of COVID-19.
Members of the Gahanna-Jefferson Education Association voted overwhelmingly to approve the new contract in a drive-through paper balloting process late Sunday afternoon. The vote was 98.3% in favor, said Betsy Baker, spokeswoman for the Gahanna-Jefferson Education Association.
The Board of Education met after the union ratification Sunday evening and voted unanimously, 5-0, to approve the agreement.
“I’m sorry that there was so much turmoil. But I am glad we were able to come together,” said Superintendent Steve Barrett.
Board President Beryl Brown Piccolantonio said that the district and community remain strong through all of this.
“We are resilient, and while there are differences among us, we agree that we must provide a high quality and equitable education for all of our students,” Piccolantonio said.
The union said teachers plan to return to the classroom Monday, ending the strike that began last Tuesday. The contract is for one-year and the classes will be online only for this week with a return to a hybrid model next week, Baker said.
“While we are sad that we missed four days of instructional time with our students, we cannot wait to see our kids on Monday and we are excited to do what we do best – educate our students,” said Jenny Palguta, president of the Gahanna-Jefferson Education Association.
Details of the contract were not available yet
Gahanna-Jefferson teachers began picketing outside their respective schools Tuesday morning, hours after the union decided to go on strike.
But unlike a typical strike, the buildings behind them were empty. Students weren’t walking past the picket line on their way to classes. Buses weren’t dropping off students and parents weren’t faced with the question of sending their children to school.
Instead, Gahanna students stayed at home — something students in the district have been doing since the state ordered all of Ohio’s school buildings closed in March due to coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s new territory, that’s for sure,” said John Conrath, who directs the superintendents’ licensure program at Ohio State University and is a retired Whitehall City Schools superintendent.
The 572-member Gahanna-Jefferson Education Association had authorized a strike with the State Employment Relations Board on Tuesday after negotiations. The old contract expired June 30.
The strike did “have little bit of a different feel to it because it does have this online component to it you don’t normally have,” said Ohio Education Association president Scott DiMauro.
GJEA members initially picketed Tuesday at all school buildings and the administrative office for the district, which encompasses the city of Gahanna,