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LEXINGTON — Close to 80 teachers from the Lexington Teachers Association showed up in downtown Lexington Tuesday in a demonstratio for a fair contract with the board of education. 

Many teachers also went the school board meeting at Lexington High School, but few were able to enter the board room. Instead, they stood in the hallway after board members limited the number of people allowed inside the meeting room in order to comply with social distancing requirements. 

Superintendent Jeremy Secrist said the meeting was not moved to a larger space because video-conferencing technology had already been set up to allow board member Martin Gottschling to join the meeting remotely.

Contract negations are ongoing between the Lexington Teachers Association and the Lexington Local Schools board of education. The next meeting between the two parties is scheduled for Monday. 

Patrick Cannon, President of the Lexington Teachers Association, said the union’s last three-year contract expired at the end of August.

“We’ve been working under an expired contract since Aug. 31,” Cannon said. “We got a late start to negotiations to be quite honest with you. We started negotiating in early August. We sort of delayed it because we have always over the years preferred to go in-person, face-to-face type of negotiations.”

Cannon said negotiations typically begin in late May or early June. He declined to discuss the terms the union is seeking.

“We are all professional educators. We're here trying to ensure that our students have this high-quality education that we're used to here in Lexington," he said. "We're hoping the board does provide that fair contract so that we can continue that process."

Cannon, who has taught 27 years at Eastern Elementary, said this year has been especially difficult for teachers. 

“The teachers are working harder and more hours than they have in the past. Teachers are teaching in-person and also planning and teaching for students that are quarantined at this time, so we have two different entities — the in person teaching and also the teaching for kids in our quarantine," he said. "We're trying to provide a safe environment for those students and the staff, following all the COVID guidelines, it's just been a very difficult year."

Cannon said he expects the board and the union can work something out soon.

“I’m very optimistic. I think that eventually we'll come to some type of agreement. I think that's important to everybody, it's important to board members,” he said. “We’re just trying to make sure that the board realizes that we have a lot of solidarity here with our members. We care a lot about each other. We care a lot about the Lexington students, the Lexington parents, the parents know us very well. And we're just looking for that fair contract.”

Secrist said he too is optimistic.

“We appreciate them and we're interested in a fair and appropriate contract and looking forward to continuing to work on it, just like they are,” the superintendent said.

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Staff reporter focused on education and features. Clear Fork alumna. Always looking for a chance to practice my Spanish. You can reach me at katie.ellington@richlandsource.com