North Kingstown students may not be heading back to classrooms this Tuesday. School Superintendent Phil Auger is asking parents to consider contingency plans if the North Kingstown Educational Support Professionals go on strike on Tuesday – the scheduled start of the 2012-13 academic year – to protest the outsourcing of the school department's custodians.
The school department and the ESP union are still negotiating a contract, which has been ongoing for the past year and a half. Earlier this summer, the North Kingstown School Committee rejected an arbitrator's award and decided to outsource the district's custodial services. Twenty-six custodians were laid off by the decision – though according to School Committee Chair Kimberly Page 20 have been rehired under the new company, GCA. Auger says that the union wants the outsourcing decision reversed as part of its current negotiations. The union has also taken legal action against the school department in the matter.
"We feel like we have done this the appropriate way," said Auger of the process to outsource. "We feel it is a good thing for the district and saving hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Though ESP has not directly threatened to go on strike, Auger stated that the union has indicated that striking is an option. The school department and union will be continuing negotiation talks this afternoon.
Though Auger "remains hopeful" that a strike can be avoided, he is askign parents to consider contingency plans for child care. If school is canceled for Tuesday, parents will receive notice through the schools' Connect Ed phone notification system.