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Evergreen Park Church Opens Kids' Program Amid Teachers' Strike

Updated 10/11/12 - 10:10 p.m.

EVERGREEN PARK, Ill. (CBS) -- The teachers' strike in Evergreen Park seems to be a long way from ending. Negotiators for the local teachers' union and School District 124 were meeting Thursday night to continue contract talks, after their previous session went until 3 a.m. Thursday.

CBS 2's Roseanne Tellez reports Evergreen Park students have been away from class for seven days while teachers have been on strike.

Before the latest negotiation session on Thursday, teachers said they're in a good mood; board members said they're hopeful, but both sides were announcing plans to offer parents alternatives while the strike continues.

That's because no one really thinks kids in Evergreen Park School District 124 will go back to school this week. Around 10 p.m., there was still no deal to end the strike.

Some striking teachers traded in their picket signs Tuesday for books and computers, after the Jacob's Well Church Community at 3450 W. Maple St. in Evergreen Park opened its doors for a kids' club.

"We had 62 kids today," teacher Joann Reilly said. "And the emails are flooding in at the moment. So hopefully, after tonight, we won't have to be here, we will be in own classroom. But we have this available, if not."

The free program, staffed by 18 teachers from District 124, was welcome news for Evergreen Park parents who have been struggling to find child care while their kids are out of school.

"I think after the third week it's going to be just way too long for everybody," Evergreen Park mother Sharon Porte said. However, she added that she thinks the board is the one that needs to move to get a deal done.

CBS 2's Pamela Jones reports teachers in Evergreen Park vowed to hold out for a fair contract, just minutes before their representatives headed into Thursday night's negotiations.

Striking for seven days has given even the youngest students time to learn the chants.

"We stay strong all day long," kids chanted as they walked the picket line alongside their teachers.

Asked what she thought would be fair for teachers, 8th grader Amanda Richter said, "To get a fair contract and get everything that they need to teach us."

District 124 Supt. Robert Machak said he thinks the two sides are closer than ever to reaching a deal.

"In terms of salary and compensation, it's less than three tenths of a percent, over a three-year contract, in terms of salary. In terms of health insurance, it's about 5 percent over the three years."

Deneen Pajeau, a member of the Evergreen Park Federation of Teachers' negotiating team, said, "I don't believe it's three-tenths of a percent. It is very close."

But she said that's not the major issue in contract talks.

"It really is making up these school days, and making sure the students have a full year of education," she said.

So far, the district has said students will make up missed days due to the strike, but the teachers will not, and will not be paid for lost days.

"The teachers are fighting to get a full year's education for the students," Pajeau said.

The Richter family has six students in the district. They want the students back in class.

They've heard the district's plan for students to make up strike days, but they said any plan for substitute teachers to make up those lost days instead of the regular teachers should be erased.

"If you bring in substitutes, I will picket that program, and my kids will not go to school," Ray Richter said.

But on Friday, there's one more option for parents left in the lurch, at Jacob's Well Church Community.

Also, starting Monday, District 124 will offer its own daycare at Central Junior High for students in kindergarten to 6th grade.

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