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Strike Camp gives District 46 students fun place to go

Morgan Moore 7 Grayslake concentrates as she dances 'Just Dance' video game with Eddie Moore (left) 10 Tony Accardo 10

Morgan Moore, 7, of Grayslake concentrates as she dances to the "Just Dance" video game with Eddie Moore (left), 10, Tony Accardo, 10, and Aidan McDermott, 10 , all of Grayslake at the Grayslake Park District Strike Camp being held during the District 46 teachers strike. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

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Child care options

For-fee child care options in Grayslake District 46 will be available for the duration of the teachers’ strike at:

Champions at Prairieview School, Hainesville. Call (847)360-0361 or (224) 280-4876.

Strike Camp at Grayslake Middle School, run by Grayslake Park District. Call (847) 223-7529 or visit

Round Lake Area Park District. Call (847) 546-8558.

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Updated: February 20, 2013 6:11AM

GRAYSLAKE — Carlos Gulzman had been learning fifth-grade geometry when his teacher and 325 other educators in the Grayslake-area elementary school district decided they’d had enough of the district’s math and took to picket lines Wednesday.

Carlos, a student at Frederick School in Grayslake, was picking through the mound of animal crackers on the napkin before him and playing a round of Uno during Strike Camp, an instead-of-school day care offered by the Grayslake Park District during the teachers’ strike.

“It’s fun here,” said Carlos. “But I wish it was over.”

Friday was day three of the strike and some parents wondered why the union and school board weren’t meeting. Talks broke off with no agreement on Thursday. The next mediation session has been scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20, at Park School in Round Lake.

“It was the mediator’s decision,” said Lake County Federation of Teachers Representative Jim Pergander. “The conversation was getting heated. I think the mediator thought we needed a day to cool down, compose, before talking again.”

The next session was not scheduled for Saturday, Pergander said, because two board members had made out-of-town plans. Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a school holiday, and will not be counted as a strike day.

At issue is money. Teachers want a raise. The School Board maintains District 46 can’t afford to give one. Pergander said the union agreed to a compromise proposal put forward by the mediator, but rejected by the board.

“In our minds, we have settled,” Pergander said. “Now we’re waiting. We’re waiting for the board to accept the mediator’s proposal. If that happens, school will open.”

In a letter to parents Friday, Superintendent Ellen Correll said the mediator’s proposal would cost the district $650,000 over the next two years. She cited financial challenges, including an underpayment by the state last year of $1.5 million and a vote by the school board in December against a property tax increase.

“We anticipate a $2.2 million deficit next year,” Correll stated. “Even without a salary increase for our teachers, the district still may face very challenging decisions, including eliminating teacher positions, increasing class sizes, ending extracurricular programs and possibly even closing one of our schools.”

An estimated 50 District 46 elementary students have been using for-fee day care programs also set up by the Round Lake Park District and at Prairieview School in Hainesville.

Kristin Splitt, deputy director of the Grayslake Park District, said she’s expecting an influx of kids if the strike slides into next week.

If that happens, Strike Camp will move to Grayslake Middle School, where up to 150 kids, sorted into groups by age, will play dodge ball in the gym, flail about in front of Wii, try to beat their adult chaperones at Monopoly and enjoy snacks.

“We’re here to serve the community and make this as easy as possible for parents and children,” said Splitt. “Parents have to go to work. We’re all hoping this gets resolved soon.”

While Eddie Moore, a fourth- grader at Woodview Elementary, called the strike “an opportunity” to spend more time researching a paper on Ben Franklin who, according to Eddie, had 17 siblings and was whipped by his father when he tried to write with his left hand, Amy Netz of Grayslake is feeling not so great about leaving her 12-year-old at home while she works.

Netz and other parents voiced frustration over the uncertainly caused by the strike. Her sixth- grader completed a project on molecules, spent time doing research, studied for a test. How long will he have to keep reviewing so he won’t forget? Will there be a test on the first day back? What about the standardized tests on the horizon? Will there be enough time to prepare?

“We don’t know what to expect,” said Netz.

“I just feel bad for everyone,’ said parent Cathy Neuman of Hainesville. “I feel bad for the teachers. I feel bad for a district struggling financially. I feel bad for the kids who will be affected the most.”

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