The labor strike that's halted work on road projects in Chicago is also affecting sewer, building and school projects in Naperville, and school leaders in the western suburb fear that a long work stoppage could affect the start of the next school year.
Crews were already on a tight schedule, working six days a week on renovations and an addition to Naperville Central High School. In fact, school officials had only allotted one week between the time work was to be completed and the beginning of the '10-'11 school year.
"I know that all the projects they're working on are important, but if the road opens one week or a week later, it's one thing. But to take and find a place where we're going to put 3,100 students, there just aren't a lot of places," said Supt. Mark Mitrovich.
He said all students would be affected by adjusting the start of school, but none more than the seniors.
"They're putting at risk college applications, scholarship applications [and] the taking of significant test," said Mitrovich.
The project is among the roughly 300 affected by the strike of the Operating Engineers Local 150 and the Laborers District Council of Chicago.
They'd had been working without a contract for a month and are upset with the rising cost of health care. They're asking for a 15 percent increase spread out over the next three years to cover benefits. Contractors have only offered 3 percent.
"We're negotiating. We were working, they walked away from the table," said one laborer.
Should the work not get completed in time, options include shipping students to Naperville North High School, where they'd likely have to attend evening classes, or officials would simply have to push back the starting date for the school year.
As they'd done a day earlier, the unions on Friday evening reiterated their willingness to meet with employers this weekend. Contractors, however, said they'd sit down on the pre-determined date of July 7 and not a day before.