Sunday, August 14, 2022

17 days of missed school as Waukegan strike drags on


Teachers in Waukegan (Ill.) Community Unit School District 60, a K-12 district in the suburbs north of Chicago, began a strike on Oct 2 and are still on strike, the Chicago Tribune reports.

As of yesterday, about 17,000 students in 15 elementary schools, five middle schools, and a high school divided between three buildings have missed 17 days of classes and school-supplied meals, and community members, who have stepped up to provide healthy meals during the strike, have become impatient and restless, according to the report.

“The kids are ready to get back into the classroom,” the Tribune quoted one volunteer at a nearby community center as saying. “Vacation is over. They’re ready to go back to school.”

That restlessness translated into a general “lack of civility” last night, as the school board was forced to “abruptly adjourn” its meeting, the district said.

“Despite repeated attempts, the audience would not come to order, and comments could not be heard from the Board or the attendees, making an open discussion of public issues impossible,” a report on the district’s official website said.

School has been cancelled for today, and negotiations between the board and teachers’ union are expected to resume this morning.

Update (Oct 30)

The teachers’ union and school board in District 60 reached a tentative agreement late in the night of Oct 29. Schools will be closed on Thursday and Friday, Oct 30 and 31, as teachers review the agreement.

In a statement, the teachers’ union acknowledged the assistance of Gov Pat Quinn and Illinois State Board of Education Chairman Gery Chico for their assistance “in giving our students the schools they deserve.”

“It is with great delight that we acknowledge having reached a tentative agreement with our teachers that will return our students to their classrooms,” said Waukegan Superintendent Donaldo Batiste. “These last four weeks have been difficult for everyone involved. Both the Board of Education and I have witnessed first hand a great passion for education from parents, students and community members. We eagerly look forward to working together as a community for the betterment of our students.”

Teachers are expected to ratify the new contract today and return to work on Friday to help prepare the schools for students’ return on Monday, Nov 3.

Because of the duration and divisiveness of the strike, Waukegan students, especially those now in their late high school years, will be watched and studied for years to come. They are a test case for what happens to students when they are prevented from going to school for an entire month.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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