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updated: 1/10/2012 9:23 PM

School will resume Wednesday at Zion-Benton

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Zion-Benton Township High School District 126 students will be back in class Wednesday after union employees agreed to terms on a new contract Tuesday afternoon, ending a four-day strike.

School district officials and union members agreed to a tentative deal at 2 a.m. Tuesday, and a contract was ratified by teachers and support staffers during the afternoon vote, a union spokeswoman confirmed.

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Tony Ficarelli, attorney for the school district, said concessions were made on both sides to forge the tentative contract agreement.

"I think everyone is pretty satisfied with the final contract," he said. "The issues regarding salary and insurance were adequately addressed to the satisfaction of the board."

School, athletics and activities at Zion-Benton High School and New Tech High School will resume Wednesday.

The school board will vote to finalize the agreement Wednesday night at a meeting, which begins at 6 p.m.

"We all are hopeful the agreement will go through," said board member Justin Stried.

To make up for the four school days lost during the strike, officials said, classes will be held Jan. 20, Feb. 20, March 5 and April 6.

In addition, final exams have been rescheduled for Jan. 18 through 20.

It's unclear at this time when missed athletic games would be made up, officials said.

Nearly 300 district employees, including teachers, walked picket lines after contract talks broke down last week.

About 2,800 high school students from Wadsworth, Winthrop Harbor, Zion, Beach Park and unincorporated Lake County were without classes after campuses were closed when talks broke down at 3:30 a.m. Jan. 5.

Zion-Benton teachers had been renegotiating their contract since April and had been working without a contract since June.

Officials said the District 126 school board declared an impasse Oct. 31 and walked out of contract negotiations, prompting the union to issue a strike authorization Nov. 1.

It took district officials almost a month to return to the negotiation table.

On the district website, the school board thanked residents for their patience during the difficult time.

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