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Officials: City Schools Will Be Open, But No Instruction Will Occur, In Event Of Teachers' Strike

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Janice K. Jackson said Wednesday that city schools will be kept buildings open in the event of a teachers' strike.

Teachers represented by the Chicago Teachers Union voted Wednesday to pick Thursday, Oct. 17, as the day to start a strike – should they not reach an agreement with the Chicago Public Schools before that day.

Lightfoot and Jackson said in a joint statement that they do not want see a strike happen.

"The teachers and support staff who serve in our district have been essential to the rise of Chicago Public Schools as a national leader in education, and we are committed to honoring and supporting their service by offering the most comprehensive and significant contract proposal in district history, proposing steps to address classroom overcrowding, and committing to hire hundreds of additional nurses, social workers and case managers. We all must continue to work to create a safe and nurturing environment for our children," the statement said.

But they said if there is a strike, school buildings will be kept open and students' safety will be ensured even though regular classroom instruction will be suspended.

"While we are doing everything in our power to reach a fair deal that prevents a strike, we are fully prepared for a work stoppage should one occur," the statement continued. "In the event of a strike, all CPS school buildings will remain open during their normal school hours to ensure students have a safe and welcoming place to spend the day and warm meals to eat. We will continue bargaining at an aggressive pace to reach a deal that is fair to our teachers and staff, supports the record-setting progress we've made, and promotes the best interests of Chicago families, so that we do not have to open our school buildings without the educators and staff members who are so crucial to our district's success."

A letter to parents said any student who needs a safe place to go is encouraged to attend his or her regular school – but students will be welcomed at any CPS school building that is appropriate for their age.

Charter and contract schools are not affected by a potential strike and will continue to operate on their normal schedules, the letter said. Families with students at such schools should look for updates or changes from their principal or school/charter operator.

All CPS schools will go on serving breakfast and lunch to students. But all after-school activities will be canceled – including sports, tutoring, field trips, Parent University activities, Local School Council meetings, and other community activities, the letter said.

CPS administrative office staff will be assigned to schools as needed to ensure safety.

CPS also emphasized that Chicago Public Libraries will remain open – along with a limited number of parks, Safe Haven sites, and other community partner sites.

For more information, parents can go to http://cps.edu/contingencyplan.

The Chicago Teachers Union and CPS have been negotiating for months, but can't agree on a contract.

Last week, 94 percent of CTU members voted to authorize a strike.

The teachers want better pay and benefits, smaller class sizes, a bigger staff, and more teacher prep time.

On the other hand, the city and CPS have set up a web page showing the offer they've already made to teachers, which includes a 16% pay raise over five years. Teachers have been seeking a 15% raise over a shorter term of three years.

Meanwhile, about 7,500 support staff at CPS and 2,500 employees the Chicago Park District also have authorized strikes. Those workers, represented by SEIU Local 73, gave the news to the mayors office Tuesday that they too could soon walk off the job.

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