The Chicago Teachers Union's House of Delegates voted Tuesday for the second time on suspending the teachers' strike, which is in its seventh day. If they decide to suspend the strike, students could be back in class as soon as Wednesday morning.
If not, teachers will hit the picket lines for the eighth school day.
The delegates arrived at 3 p.m. and are going line-by-line through the tentative contract. After the debate, they will vote on whether to suspend the strike.
North Side delegate Chuck Feeney said he was ready to return to work, but couldn't speak for the others, especially those who fear their schools could be on the chopping block.
"If I was in one of those 125 schools out there, I'd have to kind of feel like it's kind of like the Alamo. It's kind of split down the middle. I've talked to a lot of people, North Side and West Side, it's kind of really split," Feeney said.
As delegate Benita Whitfield-Shanklin arrived at the meeting, she said she hadn't decided how she'll vote.
"Lots of different people getting up to make speeches, and those speeches can be very persuasive. So I might walk with the idea of suspending it and the leave with the idea of not."
The debate could last for hours, according to CTU President Karen Lewis.
There's going to always be problems. No contract is going to be satisfactory to everyone. I expect to have some good healthy debate about it. That's what makes things work well, when people feel they've been consulted and they've been involved," Lewis said over the telephone.
CTU and CPS negotiators hammered out a tentative contract at the end of last week. Saying they needed more time to review the 260-page agreement, CTU delegates voted to continue the strike on Sunday.
Since then, teachers have been meeting in groups to go through the tentative contract. Tuesday is the delegate's second meeting- and a second chance to end the teachers' strike.
"I think we're still debating in our minds what's best. But I'm hoping for sure to be back in class tomorrow," Katie Yoon, CTU member, said.
Delegate Susan Hickey said three out of four of the teachers in her group want to suspend the strike. She said, "I think part of it was keeping the parents' support. We've got good momentum. And I think going back on our terms, as well."
That support is still there- but parents and guardians say they are ready for the strike to end.
"I feel for the teachers but at the same time, you know, I feel for most of the parents and the children because the children are missing out," Carlos Evans, parent, said. His son attends Fort Dearborn Elementary School on the South Side.
"I have never imagined it is going to be this long," Lisa Russell said. Russell has three children enrolled at CPS-- a high school junior and 8-year-old twins. She's sympathetic to teachers, but feels the clock is working against her children. "I want them to end it today. I'm hoping this will end it. I hope whatever they're looking for to end this is there."
"My sympathy is with the teachers but also with the children. It works both ways," said Willie Murray Jones, a retired CPS teacher. Jones is watching her granddaughter during the strike, and requiring her to write book reports.
If the teacher delegates vote to suspend the strike, school would be back in session immediately-- but teachers would still have to ratify a complete contract by ballot in the following days.
The City of Chicago filed a request for an injunction against CTU, calling the strike illegal. A judge postponed ruling on the issue until after the delegates had voted Tuesday. That court date is scheduled for Wednesday.