District administration, teachers and support staff have been working on a new contract since April, but the first day of school is in jeopardy.
Monday afternoon, Harlem teachers voted to support a strike. That is only if these last few days of contract talks fail.
Five hundred twenty teachers came together to listen to the school district's latest contract proposal. Among the many issues on the table, the board is fighting for a pay freeze and a one year contract.
Sandi Johnson, Harlem School Board President, says, "We did ask the teachers to work without a contract while we continue to bargain in good faith, but they turned that down. We were pretty disappointed."
The teachers want to roll over their current contract, which includes a five percent pay increase and a multi-year contract agreement.
Barbara Abrahamson with the Illinois Federation of Teachers says, "We believe a multi-year agreement is in the best interest of the community."
In the first of two strike votes, teachers voted almost unanimously that if there are no further concessions made by the board, they will strike.
"I think this is what we need. We need them to make concessions in order to keep reducing the deficit," says Johnson.
Knowing that a strike vote would be taking place, the School Board called an emergency meeting only a few minutes before a closed door meeting was open to the public.
Monday night's meeting was called on Saturday, so with such short notice few parents were able to make it. Only one parent was able to attend in order to tell the board and teachers that the students’ education is being left out of these negotiations.
"I am tired of our kids being abused. I have a willing network of parents who want to get school started on time," says Harlem parent Cathy Stoddard.
If there is no action from either side this week the teachers will take a final strike vote by ballot before the weekend is over. Another mediation session is set for Wednesday.