Negotiators plan to meet through the weekend to avoid the first Chicago teachers strike in 25 years, but with a Monday strike deadline looming, Friday could be the last day of school for a while if an 11th hour deal isn't made.
Chicago School Board president David Vitale sat in on contract talks for the first time Thursday and said they are close to reaching a deal.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel rushed back from the National Democratic Convention to monitor talks. He said progress is being made to help avoid a strike.
"Both parties have been at the table consistently and we're making steady, good progress," Emanuel told NBC Chicago in Charlotte.
The Chicago Teachers Union doesn't necessarily agree. The union on Wednesday filed unfair labor practice charges against Chicago Public Schools, accusing the district of canceling some promised longevity pay hikes and sick leave benefits.
"What they are proposing is still the two percent cost-of-living raise, but not the raises that we have had in our contract," said CTU President Karen Lewis.
With that in mind, parents of 400,000 students from 675 schools are making alternate plans for their kids in case teachers are a no-show come Monday morning.
CPS is making plans too. Schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard said 144 schools will remain open for half-day programs from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the event of a strike.
“If the leadership of the CTU chooses to strike, no one will be hurt more than our students," Brizard said in a statement, "and we are prepared to offer a safety net for families who are not able to access alternative options for their students."
The district plans to rely on non-union employees to take care of students, and though no traditional classroom instruction will be offered, classroom assistants, bus aids and principals will show up Monday to direct other activities.
Brizard said schools also will provide breakfast and lunch
Parents can sign up their child if a strike goes through at one of the open locations using their student ID number at www.cps.edu/childrenfirst. Parents without Internet access can call 311.