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Government shutdown affecting school district

CHAMPAIGN -- Unit 4 schools are feeling the affects of the federal government shutdown.
 CHAMPAIGN -- Unit 4 schools are feeling the affects of the federal government shutdown.

"It came as a bit of a surprise," says Judy Wiegand, Champaign Superintendent.

The person helping the district and teachers talk about contracts may be a no-show at the next meeting. Teachers and the district have been using a mediator to hash out contract negotiations. However, due to the government shutdown, he may not make it.

After seeing national parks closed and veteran's memorials barricaded on Tuesday, Wiegand had the same thought as many Americans.

"How is my life going to be impacted because the federal government isn't working today?" says Wiegand.

Through an email, she found out what could happen. The federal mediator may be on furlough leaving both the district and teachers' union to talk about salaries and other issues without him.

"We will still be there. It will change the dynamic a little bit but we will do everything we can to work with the other side to reach an agreement," says Dave Comerford, spokesperson for the Champaign Federation of Teachers.

"It is stressful. I believe it's stressful for both sides because our attention should be on teaching and learning," says Wiegand.

Both sides planned to meet Monday, October 7, no matter what, because, if they don't, there's a lot more at stake.

"It's always in the back of people's minds, what if the teachers do go on strike? What's going to happen to the students? What's going to happen to different athletic events?" says Wiegand.

Wiegand says if there's a strike, Friday night lights in Champaign schools, will be turned off. Classrooms will be empty. Even construction at Bottenfield Elementary could come to a halt because union contractors typically won't cross a teacher's picket line. But hopefully, with or without the middle man, it won't come to that.

"I would hope we would have the opportunity to have a very genuine dialog and really get to the heart of some of the issues. But we will see," says Wiegand.

If they don't come to an agreement at Monday's meeting, teacher's could strike by October 18.
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