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State

Classes canceled in Rockford by strike

ROCKFORD – Rockford Public Schools canceled classes for 28,000 students Thursday as negotiators for the school district and teachers tried to hammer out a new contract.

About 1,500 members of the Rockford Education Association decided to go on strike after negotiators failed to reach a deal Wednesday after meeting for 10 hours. Negotiations were scheduled to resume Thursday, and classes were expected to be canceled today if both sides again failed to agree.

Efforts to agree on a new contract have been under way since last April. Teachers and administrators have been working under terms of an expired contract since July 1.

Negotiations were slowed Wednesday by disagreements over language in the contract, said Karen Bieschke, president of the union. The Rockford Education Association represents teachers, certified nurses, psychologists, social workers and other faculty in the school district.

Interim School Superintendent Robert Willis said he was disappointed that the sides fell short of an agreement, but he also suggested they weren't far apart.

"We don't want kids to be home, they need to be in school learning," he said Wednesday evening. "But we want to make sure we do this right and get those kids back into school as soon as possible."

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