JEFFERSON, La. - It's a day Jefferson Parish teachers hoped would never come. For the first time since it went into effect in the 1970s, Jefferson Parish Public School teachers are not under contract.
Now, teachers are worried about what comes next.
Joyce Blunt has been a teacher at Granville T. Woods Elementary in the Jefferson Parish Public School system for 33 years. And for the first time Sunday, she's not under contract.
"I have a very unsettling feeling," said Blunt. "Personally my stomach has a little butterflies because there is uncertainty. I don't know what the school system's serious intentions are, even though we are in negotiations."
Teachers were outraged when the school board voted to let the contract expire on June 30. School Board officials said it conflicted with controversial state education reforms that went into effect Sunday.
But members of the teachers union had hoped to carry over salary and benefits.
Meladie Munch, president of the Jefferson Federation of Teachers, said school board officials have assured her salary and benefits will not be affected.
Still, Munch said, "I think there was a lot of anger because it's like the rug had been pulled out from teachers because of the security that they had knowing that their benefits and salaries were locked into place."
The lack of a contract is just the latest part of a shakeup in Jefferson Parish Public Schools.
The school board recently voted to close seven public schools the school board opted to fill a $25 million budget gap. But that leaves hundreds of teachers and support staff potentially without jobs as of Sunday.
"I'm very, very hurt about that because that could have been me," said Blunt.
"The last report I had are that most of those teachers at those seven schools had secured positions at other schools," said Munch. "And I think they're still working on trying to place other teachers who have not been placed."
But it remains unclear how many of the 500 teachers and support staff who received letters in May saying their jobs may be eliminated will be with the school district next year.
"As the process goes on, there are teachers that are continually retiring, resigning for various reasons, so hopefully it'll fashion enough vacancies in the school district for them to fill into," said Munch, who noted the shakeups have prompted some longtime teachers to retire.
Meanwhile, Blunt continues to sit at the bargaining table. She hopes a new contract will be in effect by the time the school year begins.
"I'm very optimistic," said Blunt. "As a member of the bargaining team, it's going in a positive manner. We've presented all of our current language, corrected what was in the past contract with what's in the new law, so we're waiting for their response to us."
Acting Superintendent James Meza said the layoffs and school closures will allow the school system to channel approximately $10 million to classrooms, and that they are trying to lease the vacant building to generate revenue and help with operation costs.
Meza said they will continue to negotiate with the teachers.
"No tenured teachers have been terminated. Many are still interviewing for announced vacant positions. We anticipate the majority if not all teachers will be rehired."
The teachers plan to hold a rally Monday at 4:30 p.m. in front of Bonnabel Magnet High School. That's just before the school board meets in special session.
Teachers said the board is expected to approve a new policy manual that has not been shared with the Jefferson Federation of Teachers.
"We want to send the message to the board that the teachers do want their contract and they do want to negotiate in good faith and we want to move forward," said Munch.