About 4,000 children will return to classes today with the end of a three-day strike by teachers at Grayslake Elementary District 46.
District 46 board members and the Lake County Federation of Teachers union forged a tentative contract agreement early Monday during discussions led by a federal mediator. Both sides must ratify the two-year deal, but it is not yet known when that'll occur.
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Union business agent Jim Pergander said it "seems surreal" to have an agreement because the teachers' contract has been an issue he's been involved in since November 2011. Negotiations between the district and the union began in February 2012.
Talks for the final bargaining session began at 6 p.m. Sunday and spilled just past midnight into Monday.
"I could say (Sunday) there was the sense this could be the day and it was fairly early on," Pergander said.
District 46 board President Ray Millington said school officials and union agreed to not discuss specifics of the contract until both sides formally vote to approve it.
"I'm not sure I'm happy as much as I'm satisfied to have it wrapped up," Millington said. "I characterize it as a heavyweight fight that went to a draw. I'm proud of the board that we stuck together. I'm also satisfied by the fact that we worked well with the union."
District 46 teachers walked off their jobs Wednesday, Jan. 16 over retirement incentives, base salary and extra compensation for job-related advanced degrees. The 325 instructors had been working without a contract since July 1.
District 46 serves parts of Grayslake, Third Lake, Hainesville, Round Lake, Round Lake Park, Round Lake Beach and Lake Villa. Children were off Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but the district's seven schools will be open Tuesday for the approximately 4,000 returning students.
District 46's walkout was the third teachers strike in Lake County since September.
Lake Forest High School District 115 teachers went on strike for five days in September over salaries and benefits. Teachers from North Shore Elementary District 112 in the Highland Park area were on strike for one day in mid-October over salaries.
Millington said he was amazed by the number of teacher strikes this year.
"I'm not totally sure why everyone is emboldened now," he said. "But, I hope we do finally see the light at the end of the tunnel here and solve some of these ongoing financial issues."
•Daily Herald staff writer Bob Susnjara contributed to this report.