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Teacher strike in Evergreen Park SD 124 could last a while

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Updated: November 4, 2012 6:28AM

Evergreen Park elementary school teachers went on strike Tuesday after failing to reach an agreement after marathon talks.

Since talks ended late Monday, a meeting had yet to be scheduled between the Evergreen Park School District 124 board and striking members of the Evergreen Park Federation of Teachers. The strike, which affects 1,800 students at four elementary schools and a middle school, might not be settled until at least next week, a union spokesman said.

Monday’s session ended when the board 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.

An assistant to District 124 Supt. Robert Machak said Tuesday that Machak would not be commenting on the strike and that all updates would be posted on the district’s website.

Machak did send a copy of an email 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 on Tuesday morning, saying it was important to bring 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.

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

Nobody took advantage of a day-long art camp that the center set up to help parents 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.

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