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The strike is now in Day 4 for teachers on the picket lines. But there are signs of hope that resolution could come soon, perhaps by Thursday. However, Lewis says a meeting of the CTU House of Delegates, which must ratify a deal, cannot be put together until Friday. So students will at least be out of school until Monday.
But both sides are back at the bargaining table and appear optimistic that a deal might be reached before Thursday is over.
Lewis said on a scale of one to 10 that the likelihood is a nine, but teachers would still have to sign off on a comprehensive deal. That likely will not happen until Friday, so it is more realistic to say the kids to go back to class by Monday.
Both sides of the bargaining table walked into negotiations this morning at the Chicago Hilton greeted by teachers walking the picket lines, but everyone seemed to be marching to the same hopeful beat.
"As we reported yesterday, we had what we think is pretty good movement, but of course, the board always has to do a little backsliding, so we hope we can tighten up some of what we talked about yesterday and still work toward trying to get this thing done," Lewis said.
Lewis said the catalyst that turned talks around had to do with the district working with the union on teacher evaluations, but work still needs to be done on other issues. Chicago Public Schools officials say they are optimistic that a deal can be done Thursday.
"I would really say to you that there is no way, unless they get really nutsy, and we could not have an agreement getting our kids where they belong," Barbara Byrd-Bennett, CPS chief education officer, said.
More than 350,000 students remained locked out of the classroom. Despite the hopeful news on strike day four, teachers have mixed feelings.
"I don't think it is going to be over today. I hope so. I'm sorry for the parents that have to deal with what they have to go through," said CPS nurse Constance Patterson Scott.
"I feel more optimistic. Everybody wants to go back to school and have the kids back in school. Yes, I think we will be back," said CPS nurse Laura Herbert.
The teachers union has scheduled a delegates meeting for Friday at 2 p.m. where several hundred delegates will meeting over the district's latest proposals.
For the first time, both sides appear to be on the same page and after bargaining went late into the night Wednesday, it looks like they are closer to a deal.
"We're getting to the point where, you know, that it definitely should be possible, but you know, it's a process and we will keep working at it," said Lewis.
"I'm happy. It is a lot better than it was this morning," said Chicago School Board President David Vitale.
The change of tone between the union and school board was clear as they emerged from late night talks. A far cry from how things appeared earlier in the day. Besides face-to-face meetings, during the last round of talks both sides held separate meetings and smaller group discussions in an attempt to narrow the gap over teacher evaluations and job recall rights.
"We had a very productive evening. You know, really good discussions and proposals on the most difficult issues that we face," Lewis said.
We have made a lot of progress today. We spent a lot of time on evaluation. We still have a lot of work to do, but it seems like we are definitely coming much closer together than we were certainly this morning," Vitale said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, six additional parks were added to the Children First program, which now offers students full-schol-day length accommodations so parents can work during the strike.