Students from the Harlem school district are set to pick up their pencils and head back to the classroom next Tuesday. But right now it's unclear whether teachers will be there to greet them. They're tied up in contract negotiations with the administration and say they won't come to work if they don't reach an equitable agreement on time.
"The parents, the community, the teachers, everyone's planning for it to start on time. If it doesn't, that obviously causes great disruption for everyone, you know hopefully it just doesn't come to that," says Lenny Nieves, chief spokesman for the Harlem negotiations.
Parents across the district are praying it doesn't come to that.
"We just moved to the area, so they're just starting. So I'm hoping they get it all figured out, taken care of so that our kids have a good start at a great education," says parent James Schwab.
Nieves says negotiations are almost done for Harlem's 370 support staff employees. That's anything from bus drivers to secretaries and custodians. He says talks for the district's 530 teachers have proved tougher. The sticking point is financials.
"Salary, insurance benefits, retirement."
Some parents say no matter what, money should never come before a child's education.
"I think everybody deserves a raise. But I don't think it should be on the kids' expense either. Plain and simple. The kids have to have an education," says parent Raymond Johnson.
Teachers say the students are their top priority too and with meetings scheduled back to back until school starts. They do believe they'll reach an agreement on time.
Nieves says, "When it comes down to it obviously we're here to educate the students and provide a service to the community. We want to be in the classroom"
But in the classroom on the right terms.
Members of the Harlem schools administration did not return our phone calls after entering negotiations.