Teachers strike ends, students headed back to class

December 14, 2009 (CHICAGO) Teachers walked off the job December 3. Students have been out of school for the past eight days. That's all going to change Tuesday morning. Kids will be back in school.

More than 210 teachers who teach 3,100 students in schools overwhelmingly voted to ratify a contract offer Monday afternoon. It was a dispute over health insurance that led to this mid-year strike.

Prairie-Hills District 144 wanted teachers to make a bigger contribution towards their health insurance. The teachers say they won that fight and are able to maintain what they already have. In exchange, teachers took a smaller salary increase.

Teachers say being out of school for eight days in the middle of the school year has been very difficult, especially for the students.

"We have to go back and hit the ground running...We are very, very committed to making sure that our students meet and exceed on our testing. When we get back tomorrow, it won't be time for parties. It will be time for nothing but education," said Michele Gallagher, union spokesperson.

"It was very difficult leaving in the middle of the school year for the simple fact that in my classroom I had a student teacher. She didn't get to say goodbye to the students at all," said Lolita Jennings, teacher.

Students will be back to school Tuesday morning. Teachers say that the students will make up five of the missed eight days after January, and those days will be made up during the school year.

In the meantime, the school board will officially ratify the contract sometime next week.

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