Nearly 1,000 students attend Dist. 33 alternative program while teachers strike
WEST CHICAGO - As teachers marched at the picket line Monday morning, about 1,000 West Chicago elementary students reported to district sponsored alternate educational instruction programs instead of reporting to a regular day of school.
Prior to the strike announced by the district Sunday night, district officials requested parents who could not make alternate arrangements for their children to sign up for the programs.
District 33 Interim Superintendent Kathy Wolfe said space was limited to about 1,000 first through fifth-grade students in the district. However that leaves about 3,000 students having to make alternate plans. No programming was offered for kindergarten students, preschool students or students in the district’s single middle school, Wolfe said.
Wolfe said some parents have contacted the district about securing a spot for their student in the alternate program. Wolfe said the district will have to determine if the resources are available for additional students.
The district and the teachers’ union have been negotiating a new contract for approximately 17 months. Talks hinged on teacher salaries, a cap on class size and health insurance, but neither the union nor the district could find a common middle ground. District officials said they were hamstrung by decreased revenues due to state budget problems.
Last week the Press reported the Elementary Teachers' Association of West Chicago submitted a final offer to the board of education. Board Secretary Dave Barclay said the board gave the union a counter offer on Friday. Union officials and district officials met Sunday for a marathon negotiation session, but according to a district press release union officials rejected the district’s offer at 10:38 p.m. District officials said the union also rejected a request to postpone the strike.
District parents have some alternatives besides the district’s offerings. The district partnered with the West Chicago Public Library and Puente del Pueblo, an initiative of Wheaton Bible Church, to offer outlets for students during the strike. Calls to both organizations were not returned by press time.
During the lead up to the strike the West Chicago Park District planned to offer programs for students during regular school hours, but that changed prior to Sunday night’s strike announcement, said Dana Hogmann, superintendent of recreation. Hofmann said the park district is only offering its regular after school activities at this time.
The alternative programs offered by the district are being conducted at Gary Elementary School for the duration of the strike. Wolfe said the plan is to create continuity of learning for the students who pre-registered. The programming includes reading, math and physical education based on a Dr. Seuss theme.
“We’re planning to support the families as best we can during this time,” Wolfe said. “Our purpose is to keep the kids engaged, active and safe.”
All after-school activities have been canceled.
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