But students across the city, most of whom return to school Tuesday, could find themselves out of the classroom again Sept. 10.
At a time when teachers' unions are under pressure nationwide, union President Karen Lewis said more than 26,000 teachers and support staff in the nation's third-largest school district are prepared to strike for the first time in 25 years. It would be the first big-city strike in the U.S. since Detroit teachers walked off the job for 16 days in 2006.
School officials and parents shifted into high gear after the union issued a 10-day strike notice last week, trying to decide what to do with 400,000 students, including those in neighborhoods beset by gangs and struggling with a spike in shootings and homicides. District officials said they would chaperone students during the morning in 145 schools, and invited bids from community organizations to provide "positive activities" the rest of the day.
The pending walkout presents other problems, too. College applications would be delayed. Varsity sports, from football to diving, would be suspended for 11,000 athletes. More than 20,000 juniors could miss practice tests for ACT exams.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who lengthened the school day this year and says he wants to hold teachers more accountable for student performance, has a lot riding on negotiations. So do teachers, who are upset Emanuel canceled a previously negotiated 4 percent raise and fear the district wants merit-only raises tied solely to student achievement.
Emanuel - and the contract negotiations - will be in the national spotlight this week, just days before the strike date: He's scheduled to address the Democratic National Convention.