DANVILLE — Danville Area School District teachers will receive pay raises of 3 percent in each of four years and pay health insurance deductibles of $250 and $750 under a new four-year contract approved by both the teachers union and the school board.

The board Wednesday night voted 8-0, without comment, to approve the pact. Board member Jennifer Gurski was absent. The Danvillle Area Education Association (DAEA) approved the contract after school on Monday by an "all but unanimous" vote, union President Dave Fortunato said. He would not give a vote total.

The contract is retroactive to the 2019-2020 school year and runs through the 2022-2023 school year. The teachers' previous contract, a seven-year agreement, expired on June 30, 2019.

Teachers covered by the Geisinger Health Plan will pay deductibles of $250 for individuals and $750 for families, as those covered by Capital Blue Cross through the Central Susquehanna Trust will. Teachers had been paying no deductibles on their health insurance, which was a sticking point during the negotiations..

The offer keeps the health insurance premium teachers pay at 11 percent.

Both sides reached the agreement after three hours of negotiations on Oct. 29, averting a strike set for Nov. 2. The contract's details were not revealed until Wednesday night.

"I think it's very fair contract for everybody involved, taxpayers, the school district, teachers, students — everybody," Fortunato said. "Both sides finally worked together."

Superintendent Ricki Boyle echoed Fortunato's remarks, saying, "I think it's a fair contract that addresses the district's and the staff's concerns. There some really good things in there for staff."

The contract includes a paid half preparation day prior to the start of school; an increase of personal days from two to three, and an increase in bereavement leave from three to five days. Along with that, it expands the definition of immediate family members and adds a second day for non-immediate family if travel of more than 100 miles is required. Vision benefits are doubled and the contract includes an increased payout upon retirement for unused sick days, from $25 per day and a maximum of $6,500 to $60 per day and a maximum of $12,000.

"I'm glad it's finally settled," board President Bonnie Edmeads. "It is fair for both sides."

A case for virtual school

Boyle also made the district's case for shifting to online-only classes between today and Jan. 8.

She noted the surge in COVID-19 cases in Montour County and the increasing number of positive tests in the district's buildings.

In all of October, there were only a few cases, Boyle said.

"On Monday and Tuesday, I was notified of four cases in our buildings," she said. "So I think virtual is the best model. We are not just looking at the kids, we are looking at our entire staff."

From Sept. 8 to 21, 16 students were quarantined because of students testing positive. In late October, 28 were quarantined and in early November, 46 students had to quarantine.

"We really need parents and older students and staff to use the Cleared4School app," Boyle said. "It lists the symptoms and tells you whether you should come or not come to school."

According to the state Department of Health, there have been 40 new cases in the county in the last week, 25 in the last two days. In Northumberland County, the count has risen by 238 cases in the last week, 112 in the last two days.

Danville students using Bridge or eLearning models will continue to use their current setups, Boyle said in an email to parents, and other students will be transferred to Google Classroom for virtual attendance.

Boyle said students will learn virtually Nov. 19-20, 23-24, Dec. 1-4 and Jan. 4-8.

Students will return to school from Dec. 7-22. Nov. 25-27 is Thanksgiving break and Nov. 30 is an Act 80 day, so there will be no school.

Holiday break will be Dec. 23-Jan. 1.

In other action at the meeting, board members approved the hiring of Alyssa Wenrich as director of Special Education at a yearly salary of $80,000, effective Dec. 9. She replaces Donna Christensen, who resigned.

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