Contract negotiations continued late Sunday night in an effort to end the teacher strike in Grayslake Elementary District 46, officials said.
Board members and the Lake County Federation of Teachers union met with a federal mediator for at least four hours on Sunday night without announcing a resolution. As board of education members arrived for negotiations parents and community members rallied with signs in support of the teachers.
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A statement on the district website Sunday night said, "The Board is unified and committed to resolving the strike as quickly as possible, and hopes to leave tonight's negotiating session with an agreement that is fair and equitable so that students can return to school as soon as possible."
Although school in the district is already canceled Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, if a deal is not reached by Tuesday, about 325 union members will be on picket lines at seven District 46 schools for the fourth school day.
As of late Sunday it had not been announced if, or at what time, negotiations would continue on Monday.
Negotiations between the district and the union began in February 2012. District 46's latest, publicly known offer is a two-year deal in which teachers would not receive base salary hikes or step increases for longevity.
Teachers would receive a $1,000 stipend paid to them in the 2013-14 school year if they have not submitted a retirement notice. The district also says the instructors' benefits would be maintained.
Union business agent Jim Pergander said negotiators for the teachers have been willing to accept the mediator's suggestion of a "middle ground" deal. However, board members countered they -- not the mediator -- must find the cash at a district where the budget deficit is projected to mushroom to $2.2 million for the 2013-14 academic year even if staff members doesn't receive raises.
District 46 teachers walked off their jobs last Wednesday over retirement incentives, salary and extra compensation for job-related advanced degrees. They have been without a contract since July 1.
School board members said in a statement while they understand the community wants the strike settled, they can't keep approving raises that are at least 2 percentage points above the consumer price index because shaky finances don't allow it.
District 46 serves parts of Grayslake, Third Lake, Hainesville, Round Lake, Round Lake Park, Round Lake Beach and Lake Villa.
The district also posted answers to 20 frequently asked questions about the strike and negotiations on its website on Sunday at http://www.d46.org.