By Kym Gable

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MONONGAHELA (KDKA) — There was no movement from either side Monday in a last-ditch effort to end the ongoing teachers’ strike in the Ringgold School District.

The union met with district officials in the afternoon for several hours, but they could not reach an agreement.

The president of the Education Association tells KDKA’s Kym Gable that non-binding arbitration will start Tuesday.

“It’s frustrating because we had nine meetings in 39 days. If we would have met more than nine times, we may have got to a point where we could get a contract,” Maria Degnan, the Ringgold Education Association president, said. “But, instead, we had nine meetings in 39 days, so we’re here now, and we’re going into the non-binding arbitration, and we’re going back to school, and really, this could be done, and it isn’t, so it’s very frustrating.”

Lisa Washington’s Report:

The superintendent issued this statement late Monday night:

“As we move forward into non-binding arbitration, both sides must be willing to work together to reach an agreement. Now that the students are returning to the classroom, we need to focus on providing the best educational opportunities for all students and prevent any more disruptions to the educational process.”

The teachers have been on strike since Oct. 18, but the state is now ordering them back to the classroom so students receive the mandated 180 days of instruction. That means, 210 teachers will return to the job Tuesday without a contract.

At a school board meeting Monday night, there was an increase in security after threats were made in recent weeks to both teachers and administrators. Metal detectors were brought in, along with with extra security personnel.

“I didn’t expect this to be honest with you,” Jennifer Szpara, who was there supporting the teachers’ union, said of the security. “I just thought we were going to come to a meeting. I’m glad that there’s a lot of people; hopefully, they’re all here to support the teachers as well.”

Most of them were, but the strain of the strike has led to not only the threats, but also to tensions on both sides.

The school board listened to hours of comments from parents, taxpayers and the instructors themselves.

“They’re only going to be in school for two days, then they go on another break because you have not bargained fair with the teachers,” said Roderick Wilson, the parent of a senior. “You have lost, as great as these kids are, you have lost these students for 2017.”

“Please look deep into your heart and soul to give us the fair contract we deserve, and have most definitely earned,” said teacher Angela Walsh.

The school board president told the crowd the board is dedicated to reaching an agreement.

The teachers have said they make less than others in the Pittsburgh area. They also claim some teachers have to take second jobs because of their low pay.

The last contract expired in July and the sides have been negotiating for about a year.

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