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Could District 304 schools stay open if teachers strike?

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 7:01 a.m. CDT

GENEVA – If Geneva School District 304 teachers strike, the administration has the option of keeping schools open with classes taught by substitutes, officials said.

Kane County Regional Superintendent Patricia Dal Santo said school administrators would need enough substitute teachers who were certified to teach core subjects of math, English, social studies and science and put in five hours of school.

Mary Fergus, a spokeswoman for the Illinois State Board of Education, said the school code defines a legal school day as one in which 50 percent or more of the district’s students are in attendance, based on the most recent month of full attendance before the work stoppage.

Lake Forest High School District 115 officials tried to keep schools open when that district’s union struck in September, but Fergus said the district was not able to do it.

“They did submit some paperwork related to their efforts to have regular school days, but it was not accepted,” Fergus said. “They had enough certified teachers. It had to do with the content of what they were teaching.”

A spokesman for D-115 could not be reached for comment.

D-304 attorney Sarah Miller said administrators are putting together a strike plan, but she could not say whether it would include keeping schools open with the use of substitutes. School board President Mark Grosso could not be reached for comment.

“The school board is very aware that having a strike can be very difficult for many parents,” Miller said. “Parents’ work schedules count on students being in an educational program. They are very aware of those concerns. They are really hoping to let the community know within the next week as that information becomes available.”

The district and the teachers union have been in contract talks since February. They are at odds about salaries, benefits and retirement language. Teachers filed a 10-day strike notice, and the earliest they could walk out is Nov. 9.

Geneva Education Association President Carol Young said their hope is to continue bargaining in good faith and come to a settlement without a strike.

Still, Young said it would be difficult for district officials to keep schools open if teachers were to go on strike because teachers would take their lesson plans home with them.

“It has to be the same education, and that would be very difficult to do that because there would not be any lesson plans,” Young said. “What we are instructed to do is, everything that belongs to the district stays, everything that belongs to teachers comes home. A lot of teachers have bought materials for classrooms, and that belongs to them.”

District officials would not have the option of firing teachers who went on strike and hiring replacements because state law permits teachers to strike and forbids them to be fired or replaced for going on strike, Young said.

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