Schools will be "holding tanks" during strike, says teachers union

PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland schools had a snow day Monday but the negotiations between the district and teachers did not.

Both sides gave each other updated proposals on Monday, but neither side would talk about what’s changed.

Negotiating teams from the district and union met at the headquarters for Portland Public Schools in North Portland, even though the building itself was closed and locked.

"They've been playing games for many months," said Bill Wilson, a high school teacher and bargaining chairman for Portland Association of Teachers. "We're here to make a deal."

"We're committed to reaching an agreement," said Christine Miles, spokeswoman for PPS. "If teachers decide to walk out, it's going to hurt children."

As she walked into district headquarters on Monday to begin negotiating, Gwen Sullivan, president of the Portland Association of Teachers, warned families that schools would become "holding tanks" if the district kept schools open during a strike and brought in replacements.

"It's very disappointing they'd do something like that," Sullivan told KATU, referring to the PPS plan to recruit substitute teachers from other Oregon school districts. "A student going into a building with adults they don't recognize can be scary."

The school district on Monday night announced that mediated talks would continue on Tuesday.

Members of the Portland Association of Teachers overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike last week, and if no deal is reached, teachers plan to hit the picket lines Feb. 20.

Representatives from both sides are basically saying the same thing, which is that the other side can end the stalemate right now.

Portland Public Schools says its goal is to keep schools open in the event of a strike. It says it will prioritize pre-K, elementary and middle schools over high schools.

Buses and meals will be normal even if teachers go on strike. The district says it’s trying to find enough subs to replace teachers, including recruiting replacement teachers from districts all over Oregon.

Miles said she did not know how many replacements the district has recruited so far.

The district released part of its plan to keep schools open for families. You can find it at the PPS website here.

If a strike happens, extracurricular activities will be canceled, which will mean no sports, choir or similar after-school activities.