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updated: 2/4/2013 8:14 AM

Classes canceled in Dist. 33 as teachers strike

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  • Daniel Guerrero and other teachers West Chicago Elementary District 33 rallied back in December during contract negotiations. Today the teachers will be on the picket lines.

       Daniel Guerrero and other teachers West Chicago Elementary District 33 rallied back in December during contract negotiations. Today the teachers will be on the picket lines.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer


Teachers will be walking picket lines and thousands of students will be locked out of classesMonday in West Chicago Elementary District 33 after the school board and teachers union failed to come to a contract agreement following nearly 11 hours at the bargaining table.

School board spokesman Dave Barclay said parents were being informed late Sunday night and early this morning that classes are canceled as the district's 284 teachers prepare to picket at all district schools except Indian Knoll.

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"Discussions have stopped," Barclay said shortly before midnight. "There definitely will be no school today."

The strike will affect roughly 4,000 students in six elementary schools, one junior high and two preschool programs.

It comes after more than 16 months of negotiations failed to produce an agreement on a proposed three-year contract. The two sides entered Sunday's last-chance negotiations far apart on salary, health insurance, retirement benefits and methods of teacher appraisals.

Union spokeswoman Mary Catherine Kosmach said the board presented the teachers with what she called an "ultimatum" late Sunday to accept all aspects of the board's most recent offer, with the possibility there could be some give and take on insurance benefits. The union rejected that proposal.

"To be given an ultimatum is not good," Kosmach said. "When you negotiate you compromise, and that is not happening now and it hasn't happened over the past 16 months."

Barclay said the board offered the union a chance to continue talks and postpone the strike, but it refused. No additional negotiations have been scheduled.

Although the strike will cancel all regular classes, the district said it will offer programming today at Gary and Pioneer schools for roughly 940 already registered students in grades one through five. Both those facilities will operate on a normal school day with one exception: Dismissal will be about five minutes later than usual. No such programming will be available from the district for students in grades six through eight, kindergarten or preschool.

Officials said principals and other adults will be on duty at all district facilities throughout the school day Monday to answer questions and address problems, officials said.

Sunday's session was the third time in a week the two sides met with a federal mediator. The lack of progress at Thursday's session prompted the union to set Monday's strike date.

The school board announced in January that it would impose its final offer on the union if an agreement isn't reached by Feb. 21. The union responded by voting to authorize a strike.

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