Waukegan teachers' strike enters fourth week

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (WLS) -- Negotiations resumed in north suburban Waukegan in an effort to end a teachers' strike that's now in its fourth week. Since October 2, 17,000 students have been out of class as the two sides work to reach an agreement over pay.

As Waukegan teachers walk the picket line for the fourth week, some of their students are killing time at the park district field house where the gym is open all day for free. In addition, paid programs are being offered as well.

"We have our Camp Impact, which is a $5 a day camp, where it's all in-house. But we have games and activities for them throughout the day. It runs from 7:30 a.m. until 6 p.m.," said Tony Violett, Waukegan Park District.

There is plenty of help from the community to keep kids busy and fed. Food pantries are offering food to parents who rely on school free breakfast and lunch.

School District 60 wants to resume food service at some of the schools during the strike, but legally cannot while pickets continue outside. While teachers' union president Kathy Schwarz will not stop the pickets, she has offered to pass out sack lunches to students outside - an idea the district says fails to comply with federal guidelines.

"Honestly, if they came back with a proposal that is fair to teachers, we wouldn't have to worry about the students going to the schools to eat lunch," Schwarz said.

Teachers are asking for a three-year deal that includes a 6 percent raise at the top end and 3 percent at the low end. Teachers say after years of pay freezes and low raises, the district can afford to give more. The school board disagrees.

"The board has put out what we believe to be a reasonable proposal," said Tony Ficarelli, Waukegan Community Unit School District 60 negotiator.

Many parents refuse to pick sides. They just want their kids back in school.

"My 7-year-old is actually an A and B honor roll student in school, so I'm trying to keep him on that track," said Ashley Sanders.

While proposals were exchanged and negotiations continue on Monday, both sides say they are not close.

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