About 5,700 Wichita school district employees are now working under contract changes negotiated in a tough budget year, including a pay freeze and changes in health insurance benefits.
The school board unanimously approved new contracts with teachers and service employees Monday night. Both unions had rejected previous proposals from the district, but members voted to ratify tentative agreements reached after mediation last month.
Teachers agreed to a two-year contract that includes a pay freeze in exchange for fewer professional development days. They ratified it reluctantly last week, as evidenced by a lower-than-usual voter turnout, United Teachers of Wichita president Larry Landwehr reiterated Monday.
All employees face a $20 monthly premium for insurance if they don't participate in at least four of several wellness activities.
The board also awarded the first construction contracts for classroom additions that are part of the $370 bond issue voters approved last November.
Wichita-based Caro Construction submitted the lowest overall bid at $1.93 million to build eight classrooms, a storm shelter and additional parking at Seltzer Elementary School. The classrooms are scheduled to be complete by next school year, which would eliminate the use of portable buildings as classrooms, officials said.
Board members approved several land deals for other classroom additions that are part of the bond plan, including a $1.78 million property purchase from the city of Bel Aire, where the district plans to place a new high school and new K-8 school.
A $1.32 million contract for repairs at Hamilton Middle School that was approved Monday night means all students could return by January to the school, which has been partially closed since structural problems from the 2000 bond issue were discovered in December. Similar concerns were found at Allison Middle School this year.
Citing this year's tight operating budget, a majority of board members voted not to pay for member Jeff Davis to attend a National Association of School Boards meeting in Chicago next spring. The board voted in July that out-of-town conferences for members had to be approved by a majority vote.