Teachers in Utah's largest school district will be going back to work next week without a new contract, according to officials on both sides of the talks.
However, the "communication channels" between the Granite School District and the Granite Education Association remain open and negotiations are continuing, the officials said."Some teachers may feel that because of the distance between our positions, we're headed toward impasse, but we're not at that point," GEA vice president Lars Erickson said Thursday. "We're still talking."
In fact, depending upon how the two sides crunch some new numbers that were dropped on the table earlier this week, the gap could close significantly and produce a breakthrough in the negotiations when talks resume Sept. 6.
The Granite Board of Education was scheduled to discuss contract developments during a closed meeting Thursday morning but canceled the session after representatives of both the district and the teachers' union asked for more time to study new information.
According to Erickson, negotiators on Monday received new numbers reflecting potentially large savings in medical insurance costs that could be applied to the contract. Also, both sides would like to have a look at the new fall enrollment figures.
At the time of the last negotiating session, the teachers' union was asking for a 4.35 percent increase along with other enhancements against the district's basic offer of 2.75 percent. Settlements averaging more than 4 percent in neighboring districts haven't gone unnoticed among Granite teachers, Erickson said.
District spokesman Kent Gardner said, "A number of items are being addressed. It's the whole package." He said he was reluctant to go into any further detail because "everyone is trying to avoid saying anything that might upset the situation."
With no agreement in hand, the district's more than 3,500 teachers will start work under terms of last year's contract with the understanding that terms of the new contract will be applied retroactively.
"Though we would prefer to have it done beforehand, it's not at all unusual for us to start the school year without a contract," Gardner said.
Erickson agreed, noting, "Last year was the first year in several that we concluded the negotiations before school started."