COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A federal mediator has asked both sides in the ongoing contract stalemate involving Columbus City Schools teachers’ union to begin negotiating again.

In the meantime, after the union, Columbus Education Association (CEA), voted last week to authorize a strike, the district said it is preparing for “alternative outcomes” should a finalized agreement not be met by the first day of school, Aug. 24.

Both sides confirmed in statements that the negotiation teams are scheduled to meet Wednesday.

“The CEA Team is prepared to make progress and hopeful that CCS arrives prepared as well,” the union posted on social media.

“As the Board has stated, they will continue to approach these negotiations committed to a resolution and under the guidance of our federal mediator,” the district said through a spokesperson, Jacqueline Bryant.

The union’s spokesperson said she is hopeful for a positive outcome from Wednesday’s negotiations.

“It means movement,” said CEA spokesperson Regina Fuentes. “We maintained hope the district would agree to come back to the table, so this keeps us hopeful they will, in fact, come back to the table and come through with their promise to continue negotiations.”

Bryant’s statement said the district is “focused on starting school with our teachers on August 24″ but “we are prepared for alternate outcomes.” Bryant did not say what those alternatives would be should teachers strike.

Bryant said as the details of the alternatives are finalized, district parents and the community will be notified.

The board issued what it said was its final offer to the union late last month. On Aug. 4, CEA voted unanimously to authorize a 10-day strike notice after both sides couldn’t come to an agreement.

At the core of the disagreement are HVAC issues inside district buildings, recruiting and retaining teachers, and smaller class sizes.

The school board met Monday in an executive session that lasted approximately three and a half hours. Following the meeting, the board and the superintendent declined interview requests.

The current teachers’ contract expires Aug. 21.

“I’m cautiously hopeful for an outcome at this point,” Fuentes said about Wednesday’s negotiations. “I want to remain that positivity for the sake of my students. I think a lot of my colleagues want to remain that positivity for the sake of our students.”