CHICAGO (CBS) – Representatives for Chicago teachers and the school board were negotiating for a new contract Saturday as observers and students dreaded the possibility of a strike.

Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. said a prolonged strike isn’t an answer.

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“It will affect street safety — the impact could be disastrous,” he said during a Saturday news conference at Rainbow PUSH.

The Chicago Teachers Union president, Karen Lewis, was supposed to be the main speaker at the event, but she canceled because of labor talks with Chicago Public Schools officials.

A CTU organizer, Brandon Johnson, spoke in her place. He would not say whether CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard should be fired in the event of a strike.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if that’s his fate,” Johnson told CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli.

Mayor Emanuel has said his hand-picked schools chief has his complete support.

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During the Black Star Project’s Million Father March, the talk was of compromise.

“When the Chicago Board of the Education and the Chicago Teachers Union fight, it is the children who get trampled,” executive director Philip Jackson said.

Seniors like Maryannette Gardner hope to start her final year at Simeon next week.

“I need this time to develop more before I go off to college,” she said.

CPS officials say they will meet every day until a fair deal is reached because “kids can’t afford to be removed from the classroom.”

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If a deal is not hammered out, teachers could walk off the job as soon as Sept. 10. That would paralyze the nation’s third-largest school system and affect more than 350,000 children.