Rockford Public Schools has been negotiating with three labor unions for the past several months, and we are at an impasse. Unfortunately, the paraprofessionals, nutrition service workers and bus drivers plan to strike on Wednesday, March 15.
Under state law, labor unions must notify the district at least 10 days ahead of a strike. If additional information becomes available, it will be shared via automated call and/or email for parents and staff, posts on social media channels and rps205.com, and through local media.
Maintaining a safe, consistent, structured learning environment is what's best for students. School will be in session if a strike occurs. We have plans at the building and district level to accommodate all students during a strike:
- Transportation will not be provided during a strike unless students ride a Sunrise bus to or from school. Sunrise is a third-party contract company, and the drivers are not members of the RPS 205 bus driver union. Transportation for after-school activities – including athletics – will not be provided. Athletic directors and coaches will provide information about alternative transportation to and from games.
Schools will open one hour early to help accommodate parents/guardians who are able to drop off their children before work. For example, parents who normally drop off elementary students for school at 7:45 a.m. may drop off students at 6:45 a.m. If your school has a late start time – for example, 8:30 a.m. – you may drop off students at 7:30 a.m. Middle and high school students may be dropped off at 7:30 a.m.
Schools will dismiss at their regularly scheduled time, and students should be picked up as scheduled. Students will be released only to people listed on each child's emergency contact card. Please contact your school's main office staff to make sure those contacts are updated. For questions about transportation, please call 815-966-3700.
- School meals: Students will receive breakfast and lunch. Meals will differ from what's on the published menu; students can expect more prepackaged meals, sandwiches and breakfast kits. Each meal will comply with the USDA guidelines and cater to students' dietary and allergy restrictions. Students can also bring meal(s) from home. For questions about Nutrition Services, please call 815-966-3033.
- Student support: Services provided by paraprofessionals will be provided by other certified, trained staff. Students with special needs will be our priority, with a focus on students' safety and personal care needs. For questions about your child's IEP, please contact the Special Education Department at 815-490-5437.
Our goal was to make sure increases in health care premiums were offset by increases in pay. We went to great lengths to make sure employees came out ahead. The district is offering more than $3.6 million in wage increases – new money – for the three unions. We're also projecting a 6 percent increase in health care costs to the district, an additional $700,000 for these three unions. Per-employee health care costs have already increased 19 percent in three years, and we have to be good stewards of our taxpayers' money.
We know this time period will be difficult for our families. But we're committed to providing a safe, structured learning environment for our students. We will continue to bargain with each labor union in good faith. We will share further updates as they're available.
Ehren R. Jarrett