No school for Evergreen Park students again as teachers strike - Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

No school for Evergreen Park students again as teachers strike

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EVERGREEN PARK, Ill. (FOX 32 News) -

Students will not have class for a third day Thursday in southwest suburban Evergreen Park, as teachers remain on strike.

Teachers went on strike Tuesday after contract negotiations broke down. A union spokesperson said the walk-off might not be settled until next week.

Dave Comerford, spokesman for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, noted there are no negotiation sessions scheduled between the District 124 board and the striking members of the Evergreen Park Federation of Teachers.

The teachers union and school board are far apart on how to pay for teachers' healthcare.

The two sides did meet Monday night in a last-ditch effort to keep teachers from walking off the job Tuesday morning as promised. But Monday's session ended when the board's representatives threatened to not allow students to make up school days lost to the strike, or pay teachers for those lost days, union officials said.

John Portala, a social studies teacher at Central Junior High School, called the development "unfortunate" and said it left teachers no choice but to strike.

Portala said Tuesday the board's ultimatum "hurts the students who deserve every day of education."

"We've been negotiating since April. We want to be in school, but we have to stand up for ourselves," Portala said.

This is the first time there's been a teachers strike in District 124.

Supt. Robert Machak said it was strange not to be in school Tuesday. But an assistant to Machak said Tuesday he would not be commenting on the strike, and that all updates on the situation would be posted on the district's website.

Machak did send out a copy of an e-mail from an Evergreen Park resident who supports the board and wrote, "Please hold firm on your final offer. It is way more generous than what a lot of people in the workforce receive in today's economy."

Many others, however, support the union. Around Evergreen Park, front porch railings, signs and trees are being adorned with blue ribbons in a show of solidarity with the teachers, who have been wearing blue clothing to their rallies and on the picket lines.

Denise Schneider is pulling for a compromise. She was at the Evergreen Park Library Tuesday morning, saying it was important to bring in her second-grade son Luke, 7, and kindergarten daughter Amanda, 5, to find some books.

"I want them to keep up with school," she said.

Parents caught the brunt of the walkout, having to scramble to find day care for their children.

"It affects us pretty good with six kids being out of school," Ray Richter said. He is the parent of six children. "I took off today to support teachers - I lost a days pay."

The Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th St., Chicago, touted on the district's website as a day care option during the strike, was peaceful Tuesday.

Nobody took advantage of a day long art camp that the center set up to help parents of students affected by the strike, front desk clerk Mary Ann Corrigan said.

"Nobody showed up. We sent the instructors home. Maybe it's because this is the first day and people had their kids staying with family or neighbors," she said.

The center is willing to give it another try Wednesday, she said, and urged people to call by 8 a.m. at (773) 445-3838.

Outside Southeast Elementary, 9800 S. Francisco Ave., teacher Lisa Schleyer, of Tinley Park, dabbed tears from her eyes after a visit from Jack Schaller, 5, from her kindergarten class at Southeast Elementary School.

"Sorry, I'm getting emotional," Schleyer said. "We want to be in class, but we have to do this."

Jack just wanted to visit his teacher, said his mother, Laurie Schaller. He brought along Pete the Cat, a stuffed animal that each child in Schleyer's class gets a turn to take home.

"We're with the teachers 100 percent," Laurie Schaller said. "They deserve whatever they want. He's getting a good education, and loves school."

Three Evergreen Park boys took advantage of a beautiful day off school Tuesday by playing what they call "tennis ball baseball" on a tennis court at Duffy Park.

Using aluminum baseball bats and green tennis balls, they tried to hit homers over a tall fence into a fierce wind. One pitched. One hit. One played the field.

Eyan O'Connor, 10, was joined by brothers Ryan Romero, 11, and Cezar Romero, 11. All were happy to not be in school.

"Well, I do miss it a little. I like math. It's fun," confessed Eyan, a fifth-grader at Northwest School.

It looks like the boys might have plenty of time to play this week.

Meanwhile, school districts in Crystal Lake and Highland Park are facing possible strikes.

SEE: Crystal Lake, Highland Park teachers may also strike

Those teachers said they're ready to strike if there's no progress in negotiations.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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