Members of 400-Teacher Union Go on Strike in Vermont

Teachers across Burlington, Vermont, are out of the classroom and on the picket lines, after contract negotiations between the city’s school board and the union representing roughly 400 members produced no compromise.

School was canceled Thursday across the district. Late in the day Thursday, the district announced there would be another day-long cancellation for all Burlington public schools on Friday.

Both sides have said they’re close on pay and health benefits.

However, working conditions remain a big sticking point, the union said Thursday. Those include staffing levels, the amount of prep time teachers get, and other duties like cafeteria monitoring.

“It may sound petty to you, but it really feeds the issue of getting the right kinds of services, the right kind of education to the elementary school children,” said Fran Brock, a high school history teacher who is also the president of the Burlington Education Association.

“The community offered a very, very fair package to them for three years and they said no,” school board chair Mark Porter said. “And so we simply don’t know what a resolution is right now.”

Some Burlington students necn came across Thursday morning said while they were having fun riding their bikes, they’d rather be in school.

“I would like to be in school today,” seventh-grader Cole Lussier said.

“Because you have more fun and get to learn and have a better education in school,” added Jason Bushway, an eighth-grader.

Sports and after-school activities are canceled during the strike, the district said, but it did announce it would be continuing its free lunch program, because many families rely on that service. Lunch service will continue Friday from 11 a.m. – noon at all sites, the district said.

“A lot of people struggle to eat,” said Devon Ames, the mother of an elementary schooler. “And this is good that the school does this.”

Another Burlington parent who was bringing his daughter to the Integrated Arts Academy at the H.O. Wheeler School Thursday said their visit was less about the meal and more about keeping his daughter on a schedule.

“We just started back to school,” Don Helton said. “Got into the swing of things, then boom - it ground to a halt.”

Helton said he hopes the sides can resume talks and produce results to get the school day back to normal soon. 

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