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Technically, there's no doubt about it. Alpine School District will start classes in its more than 40 schools this fall without having its teachers under contract.

Alpine district's negotiating team has been working on a new contract with the district's certified employees, or teachers, but officials say that so far there is nothing ready to be taken to a vote by teachers and the school board."We're hoping we can get something to the teachers for their ratification by the weekend," said Susan Stone, Alpine district's personnel director and head of its negotiating team.

Like the Nebo and Provo districts, which have already inked agreements with their teachers, Alpine actually began its negotiations in April. But because members of the Alpine Education Association were either on vacation or attended the National Education Association Convention in Minnesota, Alpine's two sides didn't start meeting again until Aug. 7. That means the soonest the Alpine School Board could ratify a contract and make it binding is in its Aug. 22 meeting.

"This really isn't out of character," Stone said. "It would be nice to get things wrapped up around the same time as we start, but (the two sides) often can't meet throughout the summer because of other obligations."

Stone said she does not believe there are any serious obstacles to overcome in reaching an accord, but members of the Alpine Education Association negotiating team say there are some issues still to be resolved.

Those issues include the use of money the district saved when it switched insurance carriers. Teachers would like it to go to district employees in either benefits or salaries, said Nile Miner, a teacher at Orchard Elementary School in Orem.

Alpine has already settled with its 750 classified employees, which include bus drivers, school lunch workers, custodians and secretaries. Alpine district gave its classified workers a 5.7 percent increase in basic salaries, with an additional 1.31 percent increase in benefits.

Though negotiators would not discuss contract proposals, they said any pay increases would probably echo those already approved in Provo and Nebo.

Provo agreed to give its teachers a 4.5 percent increase in base salaries, bringing the beginning yearly wage to $20,412, including eight paid career-ladder days for further training and preparation time. The district also gave the Provo teachers 2.35 percent increases for those on step scales - which are determined by the amount of time the teachers have worked for the district - and lane scales, which are determined by the teachers' education.

To the south, Nebo's agreement will pay an additional 4 percent on base salaries. That brings its starting teacher salaries to $19,715 yearly.

Other benefits going to Nebo teachers include a 1.93 percent increase for step scales, a 0.42 percent increase for lane scales and a 0.5 percent boost for elementary school teachers for planning time.