COVENTRY — The Coventry School Committee last week voted unanimously in favor of a new three-year contract with the Coventry Teachers’ Alliance that could result in significant savings in the school district’s budget. 

“We made some changes in the contract that will impact us moving forward,” Superintendent Craig Levis said Thursday of the agreement, which if ratified will expire in 2023. 

The Coventry Town Council had been scheduled to vote on it earlier this week, but the meeting was canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak. Details of the agreement won’t be revealed until its final approval. 

Adopted in 2018, the current contract would have impacted the district's budget by a total of nearly $4 million by its expiration in 2021. The budgetary impact of the contract approved last week, on the other hand, would be less than $1.6 million over the same number of years.

The Coventry school district is once again anticipating a tricky budget cycle, facing a projected deficit of $1.3 million in the 2021 fiscal year even if a 4 percent increase in local appropriations gets approved. 

“What’s important to know is that we’re expecting everybody to help with the budget,” Levis said,” and [the teachers] really have done their part.” 

The current contract with the Coventry Teachers Alliance still has another year left to it. But when the school committee approached them several months ago with a request to open their contract early, the teachers agreed. 

“They have one year left — the teachers did not have to come back to the table,” Levis said, adding that negotiations lasted only a few weeks. 

Levis applauded the union for being willing to open its contract early. 

“This is their community,” he said, noting that 51 percent of Coventry’s teachers live in town. 

School committee members also lauded the teachers union for coming to the table.

“They could have easily passed us off and just said, ‘it’s not our problem, you have to go back in the budget cycle and fight it out with the community,’” member Luke Murray said during last week’s school committee meeting.

Though there remain some structural changes to be made in order to create a “more sustainable path” forward, Murray added that the new contract will lead to “serious fiscal savings” over the long term.

“There was some shared sacrifice here,” he added. “Is the contract perfect? Maybe not. But that’s an ideal contract, because both sides don’t win.”

School committee member James Pierson echoed some of Murray’s comments.

“I think there’s some significant changes in [the contract] that will help shore us up for the next few years,” Pierson said. 

kgravelle@ricentral.com

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