LAWRENCE — More than two dozen classroom positions could go unfilled this fall if the Lawrence Teachers Union doesn't agree to contract concessions, according to interim Superintendent Mary Lou Bergeron.
"We are holding out on 25 positions until we finalize negotiations," Bergeron told the School Committee last night.
Mayor William Lantigua warned last month that teacher layoffs were inevitable if the union doesn't help alleviate the city's financial problems.
Bergeron told the committee last night that her administration was "in good shape" in staffing the rest of the School Department positions because other unions have agreed to concessions.
In an interview after the meeting, Bergeron said, "We're hopeful we'll resolve it."
If there is no settlement by Aug. 26 — when the School Committee meets again — the 25 positions would go unfilled, resulting in layoffs.
"We need to resolve this before our next meeting to get ready for the school year," Bergeron said.
The first day of classes is Sept. 7.
Lawrence Teachers Union President Frank McLaughlin has said he is optimistic that layoffs can be avoided.
In another development last night, the committee backed Bergeron's previous decision to move the Another Route to College program from the Northern Essex Community College campus in Haverhill to Lawrence High School.
The committee voted 4-3 against member Martina Cruz's proposal to keep ARC on the NECC campus. The program has been instrumental in enabling dozens of students who fail their MCAS exams to pass the test, which is required for graduation.
Cruz, who has a daughter who benefited from the program, said she was impressed by a group of students who turned out to protest the move during a May committee meeting.
ARC has provided a quiet learning environment for an average of 30 students a year over its eight years, according to Mike Logan, a teacher who has been with ARC since its inception.
"I always like to look at this as a Cadillac program at a Hyundai price," Logan told the committee, noting that the $211,000 spent helping a class of 30 students was a bargain.
While praising the track record of ARC, Bergeron said the program would be more cost-effective and efficient in Lawrence where "we can access many more than 30 to 35 students."
"We're trying to expand rather than limit it to a small group," Bergeron said, noting that there have been talks to involve the University of Massachusetts-Lowell in the program.
Members Mark Gray and James Vittorioso supported Cruz's proposal. Members Frank Bonet, Samuel Reyes and Gregory Morris voted against it.
Mayor Lantigua, who chairs the committee, cast the tie-breaking vote. "I just hope the sentiment out there is not that we're cutting the program," Lantigua said.
Bergeron said the relocation would save about $70,000 in transportation and college-related costs — money that would be used to hire a third teacher.