Hours after a strike-ending vote, the doors to Galesburg High opened for a triple-header against Canton.
"This is the first time they've played here because they didn't even start practice because we were here on strike," said Galesburg Athletic Director Ralph Henning.
Henning says he has remained neutral throughout the two week strike, but he knows many are unhappy.
"Right now, I'm just so happy the kids are going to be getting back to school and then hopefully we'll have some normalcy."
Amanda Sanders takes a break from watching her daughter’s volleyball game to attend to her youngest child, who is a bit restless. Sanders, a parent of two Galesburg High students, believes the teachers received the raw end of the new deal.
“I feel our educators haven’t been taken care of the way that they should be,” she said. “I just want the people who take of my kids to be taken care of.”
In a written statement, the Galesburg Education Association expressed its displeasure with the ratified, four-year contract saying, “It is not without a significant amount of frustration and disappointment that we have to move forward into a new school year.”
The teacher’s union claims administration forfeited state aid attached to student attendance by significantly shortening the number of days students will be in school. It also accuses administration of prematurely notifying the community that classes would resume, though the union had not voted.
However, the teacher’s union largest complaint entails the recall rights of teachers.
“While many provisions of the contract itself are acceptable to the majority of the membership, the punitive and vindictive nature of the return-to-work agreement are beyond insulting,” the GEA statement reads.
The district superintendent Bart Arthur claims the board could not budge on the clause because of state law.
"I think the length of time that the students were in school was more concerning to both sides, and I'm really happy that we came to an agreement. And now we get them going back to school,” said Arthur.
Sanders, too, is excited to get her children to school, but she fears the delay will negatively impact their studies.
"It'll definitely be hard, especially for my freshman trying to get into a routine in high school," she said.
At 7:30 p.m., the freshman volleyball team wraps up the first game of the night. Meanwhile upstairs, teacher Amanda Aberle finally gets to prepare her classroom for the start of the school year.
"It was an emotional day, but happy to be back in the classroom," she said.
The teacher's union accepted the contract on a 52 percent vote. Aberlee, a statistics teacher, knows that is barely an approval by a majority.
"It's about compromise. Neither feels happy with what they got," she said.
Aberlee graduated from Galesburg High School and has taught in the school for 14 years. She has never experienced anything like this past two weeks and hopes the chances are low that it will happen again.
"It's not a closed chapter. We have a new chapter to begin the healing,” she said. “Now we have to come back together and live together again and realize we are all good people and we all want what's best for this community. We just have different visions of that."
The strike ends just in time for Friday’s season opener for the Galesburg High football team, which has practiced at nearby Knox College for two weeks.
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