Classes canceled Monday as McHenry teachers bargaining session continues

MCHENRY, Ill. (WLS) -- Classes in McHenry have been canceled for Monday as a bargaining session between teachers and the school district officials continues Sunday night. Teachers walked off the job last week in a dispute over salaries and health care.

The last time the teachers and district officials met was on Friday, when the district asked for more time to put together a new proposal. That proposal is what has been under negotiation since 1 p.m. Sunday.

Negotiations continue into the night and while there is still hope for an agreement, it has already been announced that classes for Monday have been canceled.

Negotiations between union and school district officials are going on late into Sunday night in McHenry, hoping to reach a deal that will allow teachers in District 156 to return to the classroom sometime this week.

"The fact that they're still in there is promising," said teacher's union spokesperson Heidi Dunn. "That indicates there are two teams of people that are willing to try and work it out, and the negotiators for the union have indicated they will stay as long as they need to try and get something done tonight. So we'll see."

The district's 152 teachers went on strike Thursday after failing to reach an agreement with the board of education. Compensation and insurance contributions are the two things they have not been able to agree upon. The district wants to eliminate the current salary schedule. The union wants it to stay as is. The district has proposed to pay only 50 percent of any future increase in insurance premiums. Teachers want 100 percent of any increases covered.

"It's quality educators that make quality education," Dunn said. "If we end up losing that salary schedule, we'll also end up losing teachers, because the schedule provides benefits for teachers who are in the district and who are loyal to the district."

There are over 2,600 high school students in District 156 who have been out of the classroom for two days. Extracurricular activities have also been cancelled. At a rally outside of district headquarters Sunday, many of the students gathered, along with their parents to voice their support for their teachers.

"My teachers deserve a fair contract because they've helped me become the person I am today," said Katie Helander. "I would not be here if it was not for them."

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