- Associated Press - Thursday, September 11, 2014

HIGHLAND, Ill. (AP) - Teachers in a southwestern Illinois’ Highland School District went on strike Thursday, shutting down the schools as part of a labor dispute.

The walkout came two days after Highland teachers rejected by 139-16 vote the district’s latest contract proposal. Negotiations since April have failed to resolve the divide, largely over wages and benefits.

District Superintendent Mike Sutton said all buildings except for the main office will be closed, and no school-sponsored activities will be held during the strike. Sutton has asked parents to have their children continue working at home on assignments, projects and studying.

The halting of practices for sports, games and any other district-sponsored activities has raised concerns among athletes including football players, whose 2-0 team is ranked among the top ones in Class 5A.

Sutton said both sides met Monday with a federal mediator and exchanged contract proposals, but that fizzled. No other meetings were scheduled.

Highland Education Association President ShiAnne Shively called the developments “very disheartening.”

The teachers’ previous contract expired Aug. 31.

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