Dist. 156 students could return Tuesday after 8-day strike
McHenry Community High School students should know by late Monday afternoon if life as normal will resume Tuesday after an eight-day teachers' strike.
Both sides appeared optimistic McHenry County High School Educators Association members would ratify a contract that took months to reach and affects more than 2,500 students.
"It's been a long process and I think both sides did a lot of work," District 156 school board President Steven Bellmore said Saturday. "There's been a lot of negotiating and all are glad it's over."
"I'm hoping that when we get together as an association Monday, we'll have a good discussion ... and vote to agree to return to work on Tuesday," teachers association spokeswoman Heidie Dunn said.
Teachers went on strike Oct. 1.
East students will begin classes at 8:20 a.m. and West students at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday assuming the agreement is ratified as expected.
Pressure to reach a resolution as the stalemate continued mounted when the Warriors had to forfeit Friday's homecoming game and the dance was canceled. The football game and dance are now scheduled for Oct. 17.
Sticking points were salaries and health insurance costs. The district had offered a flat 2.7 percent yearly salary increase on average, using step and base pay raises.
Teachers had requested an automatic step increase of 3.64 percent plus an extra 1.36 percent boost to base pay, equaling a 5 percent yearly increase. The union also wanted the district to cover 100 percent of health insurance premium increases.
The agreement was reached at 1 a.m. Saturday after intense discussions. Neither side provided specifics on the deal.
"There was movement on both sides," Dunn said.
Bellmore noted, "I think it's amicable to both side. We knew in the end we would come to an agreement and have the kids and educators back in class where they belong."
Dunn added, "I think everybody understands things get tense and emotional because both sides come from different perspectives. Both sides are feeling they're doing what is best for the community."
District administrators now are working on a plan to compensate for missed classes that could possible involve three or four makeup days.
"I think we'll be able to make up the lost ground," Bellmore said.
It's now time to heal and bring the District 156 community back together, Dunn said. "The end is in sight. We're going to try and figure out how to avoid work stoppages in the future."
If all goes well, a decision could be reached by teachers, who meet at 3 p.m. Monday, by as soon as 4 p.m., Dunn said.
The school board meets on Oct. 19 to vote on the contract.
"Of course, it's not an ideal situation to be out of the classroom for eight days, but we're excited to get back in and start up again with our kids," Dunn said.
Daily Herald staff writer Madhu Krishnamurthy contributed to this story.