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State declines to intervene in Denver teachers dispute, clearing way for strike as soon as Monday

DENVER -- The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment will not intervene in a potential strike by Denver Public Schools teachers, it was announced Wednesday.

Gov. Jared Polis announced the decision he and Department of Labor executive director Joe Barela say state officials believe the district and teachers are close to a negotiated agreement.

The Denver Classroom Teachers Association, which is representing teachers in the contract negotiations, announced later Wednesday that it plans to go on strike Monday if a deal can't be reached.

"We believe that the two sides are very close to a resolution," Barela said.

Polis met with union officials and the district, the largest in the state, on Tuesday. The union had asked Polis not to intervene.

Denver Public Schools said it has invited the union back to the bargaining table on Thursday to try to head off a strike. They have plans to negotiate again on Friday.

Denver Public Schools superintendent Susana Cordova has pledged to keep schools open during a strike.

"It's not going to look like typical school so we want to be honest about that," Cordova said. "And look at the dual focus of making sure we're open to serve our students, while being honest that school will not look and feel the same way."

The district has been heavily recruiting substitute teachers to fill in during a walkout. However, Cordova said early childhood classrooms would be closed during a strike.

The union voted in January in favor of a strike. Had the labor department gotten involved, the strike would have been put on hold for up to 180 days.

The union is seeking increased pay and a decrease on teachers' reliance on one-time bonuses.

"Absolutely teachers are nervous about it," said DCTA lead negotiator Rob Gould. "But the other side of that, is teachers are excited that they’ll be able to stand up and say no, no more to DPS."

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