Both Medford School District and teachers' union officials expressed optimism that a contract settlement is near, possibly even gelling tonight.

Both Medford School District and teachers' union officials expressed optimism that a contract settlement is near, possibly even gelling tonight.

Superintendent Phil Long said he is "feeling a lot of relief" and that negotiators were "closing all the pieces."

A settlement would mean an end to an 11 work-day strike that has sidelined more than 500 teachers and affected 12,100 students districtwide.

Long said bargaining teams were meeting in small groups in four rooms, and administrators had been called into discussions about the working conditions part of the contract.

"This is the part where you have to have language that actually works," Long said.

"They're making good progress. We're optimistic now," said Chris Geankoplis, a picket line leader for the Medford Education Association, following a teachers' meeting at 2 p.m.

"There are no details ... all we know is that there is progress," Geankoplis said.

Following the meeting at the Ramada Medford Hotel and Conference Center, teachers poured out of the conference room in a celebratory fashion.

While teachers waited in line for their paychecks from the MEA, another teacher who declined to be named said teachers have "hope," now, but will continue picketing until a settlement is reached.

— Sam Wheeler and Teresa Thomas

See complete coverage of the Medford teachers' strike at www.mailtribune.com/medfordstrike.

Correction: A typographical error was fixed in this headline.