The school year starts Aug. 20 for students in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, but it could be delayed due to a strike.

Members of the Kenai Peninsula Education Association and the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association have been without a contract with the district since July 2018.

Both sides return to the negotiating table Tuesday, Aug. 13 at Soldotna High School as they try to avoid a strike which would shut down every school in the district, including Connections Homeschool, charter and alternative schools, and distance learning programs.

The cost of health care is the main issue for workers.

"The last couple of years teachers take home pay has been less than the year before because of the rising cost of health insurance,” KPEA president Dave Brighton said. “We just can't continue to work under those conditions."

The district said it offers employees two health insurance programs.

"Costs are continuing to rise. We all know that the highest cost of health care in the world is in the United States and the highest in Alaska in the states,” said Communications Director Pegge Erkeneff. “So it's safe to say the highest cost of health care in the world is what's happening right here for all of us."

Both unions must give 72 hours notice before a strike takes place. 

Any lost days would be made up at the end of the school year.

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