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Leaders of Seattle teachers union vote to end strike; school starts Thursday

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SEATTLE -- Leaders of the Seattle teachers union have voted to end a five-day strike and have urged the 5,000 members to accept a tentative contract, which would bring students back to school this week.

The union's board of directors and its representative assembly on Tuesday recommended approving the three-year agreement that addresses major sticking points around pay, testing and length of the school day.

The strike would be suspended until the union's full membership votes on the deal Sunday.

The walkout began Sept. 9, delaying the start of school for 53,000 students in the state's largest district. Teachers complained that living expenses have become unaffordable as the city's high-paid technology industry booms and they have gone six years without a cost-of-living increase.

The Seattle Teachers Union says its members would be back at work Wednesday. The district has said students would return to class Thursday.

Seattle Public Schools officials confirmed the tentative agreement in a press conference earlier in the day. Details of the tentative deal were not immediately available. Questions about pay, equity, testing and recess were all on the table.

Making up lost time

The school calendar may need to be looked at once classes resume, officials said, with a possible shortened winter break put into effect to make up for days missed in the strike.

Teachers and others continued to march in support of the teachers around 10 a.m. Tuesday.

“We are doing this because a tentative agreement is not a full agreement,” Rachel Katz Carey said.

Hundreds marched through the streets of Sodo converging on Seattle Public Schools headquarters.

One bystander spoke up upset over the rally saying he didn’t believe in strikes.

“I think it can be settled in other ways I think it’s selfish to strike when your kids are in the middle of a school year,” Cary Adams said.

The two sides negotiated for 20 hours straight before announcing the deal early Tuesday morning.

“It felt at all times as if we were on a knives edge, in the end we found common ground,” Geoff Miller lead bargainer for the district said.

“Tentative agreement means the team thought this was good that we should bring it forward to the membership for approval,” Seattle Education Association President Jonathan Knapp said.

The union says the details on pay hikes, longer work days for teachers and standardized testing will not be released until all their members vote on the tentative agreement.

The district says their focus now is on healing.

“Even though the strike did not last long it’s always difficult to overcome a situation like this,” Ballard High Principal Keven Wynkoop said.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray praised news of a tentative deal, saying he was glad both parties were able to come to an agreement. Drop-in activities would continue operating until school was officially back in session, Murray said.

This week, Seattle Parks and Recreation is offering drop-in activities for up to 3,000 kids at the City’s 21 community centers. Parents or guardians can still register online or in person at a community center.  Click HERE for a full list of community center programs. All registration is first come, first served.