All public schools in Brookline, Massachusetts, will be closed Monday due to staffing concerns over a planned strike by educators.
The district made the "difficult decision" to close all schools because "There will simply not be the staffing capacity to operate all schools safely, nor can PSB provide the structured education required by the state for the day to legally count as a school," Superintendent Dr. Linus Guillory said in a statement posted online Sunday.
The superintendent said he understands the Brookline community will have many questions and reiterated this was not an easy decision for anyone.
"I also understand that this juncture in negotiations is challenging and frustrating for all, and that closing schools on Monday will be extremely difficult for students, caregivers, staff, and our community," Guillory said. "Please know that the mediator is continuing to facilitate discussions to settle the contracts. The School Committee and PSB leadership will be working through Monday’s mediation session, and are determined to come to an agreement."
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An announcement on any additional school closures will occur no later than 6:00 a.m. Tuesday, Guillory added.
Students say this is a busy time of year when every day counts.
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“It would be disruptive, a lot of stuff going on in school, there’s MCAS coming up,” said student Zac Roffman.
“Sure we’ll get behind on certain assignments,” said student Owen Bergstein. “And we have a few tests this week but it’s for a really good cause and I think that means a lot.”
Brookline public school teachers announced plans to strike Monday after mediators were not able to help the union and the school committee reach an agreement on parts of their contract, the committee confirmed earlier Sunday.
"BEU (Brookline Educators Union) would rather reach an agreement, but last night's discussions made it impossible for us to accept," Brookline Educators Union President Jessica Wender-Shubow told NBC10 Boston on Sunday.
An emergency negotiating session with a mediator later Sunday afternoon also ended without a deal.
"You’ve left us no other options because you’re refusing to show any seriousness about looking at what we need you to look at," Wender-Shubow said. "The strike is all that’s left.”
According to the BEU, teachers within the district have been working without a contract for the last three school years and are "fed up" with the Brookline School Committee and its approach to bargaining.
"The educators have been saying for months, actually for years, even before COVID, we have an emergency in these buildings," Wender-Shubow said. "We need more staff of color, we need them to stay, we need to show them the respect that will keep them in the district and we have ideas and you are not interested in working with us."
“Our working conditions are our children’s learning conditions and so they matter,” said high school physics teacher Graciela Mohamedi, who is on the negotiating team. “It seems to me they’re really trying to balance the budget on the backs of the educators who are going in and giving everything they have to this district.”
The strike would be illegal under Massachusetts law, something the union acknowledges but they’re going forward anyway.
The Norfolk County Superior Court issued a preliminary injunction Friday against the BEU, prohibiting them from striking or threatening to strike. The Court stated that if the union were to strike, “[s]erious and irreparable harm will occur to the Town, the students and their caretakers, and the public welfare.”
Union members rallied Saturday morning at Brookline Town Hall, saying in a statement, "The inexcusable delays in settling contracts and the complete unwillingness to even talk about issues that have such an impact on students and the quality of education that we provide them have brought us to a point where Brookline educators must take bold action."
The key sticking points are wages, teacher diversity, and the amount of preparation time teachers get during the school day.
“We have said you’ve got to give somebody a minimum of 40 minutes,” said Wender-Shubow. “Forty minute prep time, and they said no, and that is so deeply disrespectful.”
More negotiations are scheduled to take place Monday.
Teachers will be picketing outside of every school building and town hall beginning Monday morning.