Back to school in Souderton

September 19, 2008 3:00:53 PM PDT
Summer break is officially over for students in the Souderton school district. A teachers strike pushed the start of class back, but an agreement reached Thursday meant school could start again.

Friday morning, teachers and administrators greeted students outside the building as they filed into the schools.

"I'm just delighted to see kids with smiles on their faces and teachers welcoming them back," said high school principal Sam Varano.

After a 16-day walkout, the teacher's union agreed to submit to non-binding arbitration and return to work.

For some students, it was rough hearing that alarm clock go off.

"I had to get up at 5:30 to take a shower," said student Rebecca Undsderfer. "It's kind of hard getting up this early.

The union and the district are fighting over salary and health care.

The union says starting teachers in Souderton are the lowest paid in Montgomery County at $36 thousand a year.

The union wants an 8.2 percent increase in each of the next four years.

The district has countered with 2.5 percent increases in each of the next three years.

The union promises professionalism while they work this out.

"Once we are in the classroom we turn into teachers," said Bill Lukridge of the SAEA. "We're here to teach. That's what we do."

At Franconia Elementary, parents lamented the rearranging of entire schedules during the strike.

"Just glad that they're back, and glad there we're in school, because it was a long summer," said parent Dawn Taragna.

Each side has 10 days to submit their final proposals to the arbitration panel.

If they don't like the panel's decision, they don't have to agree to it.

If that happens, the teachers could legally strike again during this same school year for another week.

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