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With Strike Looming, Chicago District Lays Off Workers

Amid the threat of a teachers' union strike, the Chicago school district announced another round of layoffs on this week based on lower-than-expected student enrollment.

The district said that it was laying off nearly 240 teachers and staff members. This comes after nearly 508 teachers and 521 school staffers were laid of in August.

In both instances, the district said that some of the laid off employees may be able to find jobs at schools with higher enrollment numbers.

The cuts drew a sharp rebuke from the Chicago Teachers' Union, which announced last week that its members plan to go on strike on Oct. 11 if no agreement is reached with the district over a stalled labor contract. The union's contract expired in June 2015, and the two sides have failed to agree on issues like wage increases and how much union members should contribute to their pensions.

Stephanie Gadlin, a union spokeswoman, said Monday's cuts were "the latest round of attacks on children and are pushing educators closer to Chicago's third school strike in four years."

"As teachers continue to work to maintain the best classroom instruction amidst piecemeal budgets, the mayor and his handpicked CPS CEO Forrest Claypool continue to rob students of essential support staff and educators whom they've known and trusted in learning environments. In addition to disruption from the loss of personnel, special education, wrap-around services and bilingual education also are being cut," Gadlin said in a statement.

But the cuts were expected. The district announced last week that enrollment was down by 13,804 from last year after a 10-day count. 

With an impending strike, the union's house of delegates is expected to meet again on Wednesday. Contract talks between the district and the union are expected to continue this week.

In the meantime, the school district on Tuesday announced contingency plans for students and parents in the event of a strike next week.

While classes and extracurricular activities would be cancelled, schools would remain open during regular school hours, and schools would provide free breakfast and lunch for students who need meals.

The transit authority would provide free transportation for students between 5:30 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.

Students would be permitted spend the day at any school, though high students will be required to go to high schools and elementary students to elementary schools, the district said.

The district also said that it was working with the Chicago Park District, the libraries, and Safe Haven programs on providing childcare options for parents. The city's Safe Passage program will remain in effect, the district said.

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