Teachers in the Prior Lake-Savage School District have stopped working before and after school and stopped taking work home with them to protest how contract negotiations between the district and the teachers' union are proceeding.

The effect on parents and students will be determined more by the individual actions of the district's 400 teachers, the district's human resources director, Tony Massaros, said Wednesday. District teachers used the same strategy during negotiations in 2005, he said.

The teachers' protest, called "work to rule," means that they are deciding to abide very literally by the terms of their current contract.

The strategy is "fairly rare," according to Doug Dooher, a spokesman for Education Minnesota, the statewide teachers' union.

"It's meant to shine a light on all the unpaid, voluntary, extra work they do," he said.

At the district's school board meeting Monday, board vice-chairwoman Lee Shimek read a board statement saying that the rising cost of medical insurance is the board's biggest challenge in the negotiations.

The district and the teachers' union have a second day of mediation scheduled for Wednesday. The state deadline for the new contract is Jan. 15.

Prior Lake-Savage teachers' union officials didn't return Star Tribune requests for comment.

Massaros said the school district wouldn't comment further on negotiations, saying that "the school board doesn't want to negotiate through the media."

Under the expired contract that the teachers are working under, the school district pays the entire premium amount of the health insurance policy for full- and part-time teachers enrolled in the district's health and hospitalization plan, unless teachers choose a more expensive plan. For two-party and family insurance, the district picks up a large percentage of the premiums.

Dooher said that health insurance is a factor in almost every contract being bargained in the state.

"It's overwhelming everybody," he said.

Emily Johns • 612-673-7460