Students in limbo: no school until teacher contract approved -

Students in limbo: no school until teacher contract approved

CAHOKIA, Ill. ( -- Students in Cahokia's District 187 will not start school until after Labor Day.  The school board and administration pushed back the first day of school after the teachers union voted to reject the district's most recent contract offer.

School was supposed to start on Wednesday, August 22nd.  The new start date is set for September 6th, though the district says the date may be pushed back if there isn't a deal by then.

Dave Comerfield, spokesperson for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, says the teachers union is willing to start school while negotiations continue, "There is no reason to keep kids out of school and inconvenience parents at the last minute like this.  We believe school should start.  We'll continue to bargain and try and settle this."

Superintendent Art Ryan said the board and administration agreed they won't start a new school year until a contract is in place, saying the district does not want a repeat of a 2007 strike that began after the school year started.

"The board just does not want to have that disruption this year," Ryan said.

Both sides agreed they would not discuss the details of negotiations, publicly.  District 187 says it is trying to cut nearly three million dollars from the budget. 

The teachers union includes approximately 500 members, which includes teachers, secretaries, and support staff.  Comerfield said that around 300 members voted on Thursday.  The group declined to provide exact numbers, but Comerfield said an "overwhelming" majority turned down the latest offer from the district.

Comerfield said the union immediately requested another meeting with the district to continue negotiations.

Thursday afternoon, parents began receiving automated phone calls about the new start date.  The district also updated its calendar, on-line:

Approximately 4,200 students are expected to attend Cahokia schools this school year.

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