by Faith Karimi, CNN
(CNN) - Chicago is bracing for a teachers' strike that could affect hundreds of thousands of students next week in the nation's third-largest school district.
Teachers and support staff set a walkout date for Monday, which would mark the first time they have gone on strike in 25 years.
"This is a difficult decision for all of us to make," said Karen Lewis, the union president . "But this is the only way to get the board's attention and show them we are serious about getting a fair contract which will give our students the resources they deserve."
If it happens, it will affect about 400,000 students, including some from neighborhoods struggling with crime and gang problems.
City officials scrambled to minimize the disruption by setting up 144 sites to provide a "safe environment, food and engaging activities" for students if the strike occurs.
"If the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union chooses to strike, no one will be hurt more than our students, and we are prepared to offer a safety net for families who are not able to access alternative options for their students," said Jean-Claude Brizard, the school system chief executive.FULL STORY