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Teacher contract talks down to the wire in Evergreen Park

Mariellen Newquist left Jennifer Knight hug during rally for their teachers uniCentral Junior High School Evergreen Park IL Monday September

Mariellen Newquist, left, and Jennifer Knight hug during a rally for their teachers union at Central Junior High School in Evergreen Park, IL on Monday September 11, 2012. Teachers in AFT Local 143 union held the rally in advance of next talks with their school district. A potential strike is looming in Evergreen Park. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 2, 2012 6:12AM

Parents of students who attend the five schools in Evergreen Park School District 124 figure to be on pins and needles Monday night, wondering whether their children are going to school Tuesday.

The Evergreen Park Federation of Teachers is scheduled to meet with the school board at 5 p.m. Monday at Central Junior High School for a last-ditch effort to come to a contract agreement.

If there’s an agreement, school will be in session for about 1,800 students Tuesday. If there’s not, teachers plan to be walking the picket line by 8:15 a.m. outside each of the five schools.

Negotiations began in April. Two marathon sessions were held last week, and the two sides have not met since Wednesday.

Before Wednesday’s meeting, Tony Demma, a teacher at Southeast School and a member of the union’s negotiating team, said the teachers “absolutely do not want that (strike) ... we will do what we have to to get this done.”

On Tuesday, union members voted 147 to 1 against accepting the school board’s latest contract offer.

Dave Comerford, spokesman for the Illinois Federation of Teachers and a veteran of contract negotiations, said Friday he has no gut feeling of what will happen.

“I just don’t know. It’s hard to get a feel for what is going on here,” Comerford said.

He does know the union will try to get the word out as quickly as possible regarding what happens Monday night.

“Once you get past 10:30 p.m., that’s the latest as far as TV (news) goes,” he said.

The union and district plan to send news releases to the media, and updates will be posted on the district’s website, which has been keeping parents up to date regarding contract negotiations.

The website on Friday featured suggestions for parents about what to do about their kids if there is a strike. For activity ideas and tips for learning resources, visit

Parents can find lesson plans for each grade level on the district’s website as well.

There are not a lot of full-day options for parents who have to work.

The Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th St., will host a daylong art camp from 4 to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays for students from kindergarten through eighth grade, but needs a minimum of 20 students. The fee is $40 for arts center members and $50 for nonmembers, according to the website, and children must bring their own lunch. For more information, call (773) 445-3838.

Students in grades five through eight can play arcade games, table tennis, pool or Wii from 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays at the Evergreen Park recreation department’s community center, 3450 W. 97th St.

The Evergreen Public Library, 9400 S. Troy Ave., will offer hands-on crafts for all ages, and computer games for students in grades six through eight. Children age 9 and under must be accompanied by an adult. For more information, call (708) 422-8522.

Those in need of early or late care can call St. Bernadette’s Catholic Academy, 9311 S. Francisco Ave., which is offering an extended-day program from 6 to 8 a.m. and from 3 to 6 p.m. The number is (708) 422-6429.

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