Summer vacation officially came to an end Monday for thousands of Chicago Public Schools students, as classes began at 243 year-round schools.
But while it was a party-like atmosphere for a kick-off event inside Lindblom Math and Science Academy, the dark cloud of a possible teachers strike hangs over the district.
Parents dropping off their kids at several schools expressed concern about a work stoppage, but district officials remain confident that action will be averted. Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard pointed out that since last November, the two sides have successfully worked through about 400 issues.
"We're working through those day in and day out. I am still hopeful and optimistic we'll get this done before Labor Day," he said.
The problem is that the issues that remain -- health benefits, class sizes, teacher reviews and compensation -- are among the biggest.
At Beidler Elementary School, on the city's west side, Mayor Rahm Emanuel made no mention of the possible strike, instead focusing on the new longer school day which will mean more reading and writing time.
For a strike to happen, the union delegates would first have to set a strike date and then give CPS officials 10 days notice. The first date that notice could be given is this Friday, Aug. 18.
Teachers have been without a contract since June 30.