Cowlitz County judge declines to find striking Kelso teachers in - KPTV - FOX 12

Cowlitz County judge declines to find striking Kelso teachers in contempt

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KELSO, WA (KPTV) -

Wednesday marked the sixth day of a teachers’ strike in Kelso, and the strike will continue for a seventh.

Mediation started up again Wednesday afternoon, but there are no new developments yet.

An attorney for the school district asked the judge to hold the union in contempt for defying a court order to return to work on Tuesday.

He also asked the judge to fine the union for each day the strike goes on starting Friday.

The district wants to resolve this matter at the bargaining table, but we also believe this court should make it clear that there are consequences for ignoring the court's order,” Lance Andree, attorney for Kelso School District, said.

Judge David Koss put off any ruling and scheduled another hearing to let the union defend their decision.

Union rep Sandy DeBruler said their strike is justified and demands are fair. Kelso teachers have worked without a contract since June, and teacher pay is a big sticking point behind the strike.

Barnes Elementary School teachers, parents and students cheered when they learned Judge Koss decided not to hold striking teachers in contempt of court. After Wednesday’s court decision, teachers said they're feeling encouraged and hope it's a turning point in negotiations.

“I'm ready to get back to my classroom and my kids. I miss my kids,” Neil Varble, teacher at Barnes Elementary, said.

Instead of hitting the picket lines Wednesday, teachers performed community service.

Many held food drives alongside their students, while Kelso High School teachers picked up trash near the campus. Across from Barnes, teachers served breakfast to their students and gave away books.

As the strike drags on, both sides claim they're eager to get kids and teachers back to school.

“(It’s) incredibly stressful,” Varble said. “None of us really want this, but enough was enough.”

Judge Koss will hear arguments from both sides Friday and decide whether or not to hold the teachers union in contempt of court.

If he does the district asked the union be fined at least $2,000 per day the strike goes on.

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