FRANKLIN LAKES —  Teachers at four schools in a Bergen County school district who have worked without a contract for two years walked out of classes on Monday.

Two hundred and seventy-six members of the Franklin Lakes Teachers Association hit the streets on Monday. The union said in a statement that "signaled the breakdown of negotiations between the FLEA and Franklin Lakes Board of Education."

The Franklin Lakes Board of Education in a statement called the strike an "illegal job action" and said its lawyer is "pursuing emergency court action ordering the teachers back to work."

Video posted by NBC 4 New York showed teachers dressed in black walking in a circle, holding signs with a red ribbon tied around a tree.

The school board said it only learned of the strike early on Monday morning and was surprised by the job action because both sides met on Sunday night and seemed "very close" to an agreement. Both sides met on Monday morning as well, according to the school board.

Administration staff sent students home who showed up for class. Elementary school buses were canceled before their runs.

At the center of the negotiations is "the fight for affordable health care and a fair contract settlement that ensures stability," the union said in a statement.

The New Jersey Education Association said it stands with the union in its walkout.

"Without meaningful relief from the crushing cost of imposed health care contributions, current district educators cannot afford to continue working and prospective educators will not be willing to come to Franklin Lakes. The students in Franklin Lakes deserve the kind of schools that only dedicated professionals like the members of the FLEA can provide," NJEA’s President Marie Blistan, Vice President Sean M. Spiller and Secretary-Treasurer Steve Beatty said in a statement.

The New Jersey School Boards Association pointed out that teachers strikes in New Jersey are illegal.

"They constitute a substantial disruption to the education of the district’s children. We urge the teachers to return to the classroom immediately. NJSBA stands ready to assist the Franklin Lakes Board of Education in this difficult situation," the group said in a statement.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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