PPS students return to school Wednesday, teachers still without a contract
PEORIA (Heart of Illinois ABC) - Peoria Public Schools students will return to classes Wednesday, but their teachers will work without a signed union contract.
District administration met with union representatives again Tuesday night to work toward a deal. The two sides have met at least 18 times, but have not yet come to an agreement.
District Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat says the two sides are making progress, albeit at a slow pace, and working to compromise on “difficult topics.”
“We are making steady progress, and both sides are very amicable,” Kherat said. “Overall, I am very pleased with the progress we have made, and like everyone else, I would like to put some closure on this ASAP.”
A representative from the Peoria Federation of Teachers says the union is not as optimistic about current bargaining, calling the two sides “far apart.”
The current contract expired at the end of June, and teachers plan to work under the terms of the old contract. The current situation comes as the district finished up a shorter Summer break than usual.
The yearly hiatus was two weeks shorter this year, as the district switched to its modified school calendar. Those two weeks will be shifted to create longer Fall and Spring breaks.
The district has worked to overcome last year’s bus driver shortage by increasing pay, and they are now fully staffed with around 90 bus drivers.
“They are a very important group for the school district, because in many cases, they are the first individuals our children see,” Kherat said.
“Our bus driver numbers are looking pretty good,” Communications Director Haleemah Na’Allah said.
And students say they cannot wait to see their friends again. Akeisjah Parker is a Peoria High School senior who plans to attend college for either communication or journalism.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Parker said. “This is my last year. So spending as much time as possible, and getting my senior year all planned out.”
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