What Contingency Plan? Parents in the Dark About What Happens if Teachers Go on Strike

By Patty Wetli | Friday, August 31, 2012

Chicago teachers may strike Sept. 10. Credit: Flickr/JeanPaulHolmes

As the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools traded announcements yesterday — CTU setting a strike date of Sept. 10 and CPS issuing its contingency plan for students — parents were left scratching their heads.

How will CPS dole out its $25 million in emergency funds? Where’s the list of the 140+ schools that will provide kids with activities and supervision in the event of a strike? Is the Park District really extending day camps?

“When I do ask questions, it seems like nobody really knows,” said Wendy Vasquez, CPS parent and co-president of Friends of Ravenswood School. Few current parents remember the last strike in 1987; some might not have been born. “I think people are confused. My sense is folks aren’t sure what to expect.”

Center Square and Roscoe View Journal reached out to dozens of parents, local school councils and community organizations and found a similar lack of certainty across the board.

If the Park District will indeed continue summer camps past Labor Day, that would be news to the presidents of advisory councils at Chase, Welles and Hamlin Parks. Chicago Public Library had yet to respond to our query regarding their “online learning” plans for students; likewise, as of publication, CPS hadn’t answered our questions about how the board would communicate alternate locations for students, or whether those locations would be able to accommodate students with disabilities.

Parents are attempting to fill the vacuum. According Vasquez, Ravenswood (4332 N. Paulina St.) was investigating whether its after-school program would be able to provide care during the day. For her part, while lucky to be home for her children, she was pondering potential educational activities she could facilitate on her own. “I can’t, after the whole summer, not let them learn at all.”

Julie Loose, who heads up parent communications at Audubon Elementary (3500 N. Hoyne), told us the school was exploring day camps with partners such as Wishcraft and Unicoi Art Studio. Parent advocacy group Raise Your Hand is assembling a list of childcare options.

For others, between the holiday weekend and official start of the school year next week, the looming teachers strike had barely registered. “In and around Chappell, the pending strike has not been officially discussed nor have I heard anything from the parent population,” said Eric Rojas, Chappell parent and LSC representative. “We’re a little less excitable around here I guess.”

“From my perspective, I think it feels like mom and dad [CPS and CTU] are fighting, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it,” said Jeffrey Newman, LSC community representative at Amundsen High School. “Mostly it’s the kids that get hurt.”

If parents are holding out hope CTU and CPS will resolve their issues and agree on a contract before Sept. 10, so are teachers. “Our dream is that the school board wakes up and gets serious,” said Cynthia Smith, union delegate and special education instructor at Lane Tech High School. “We’ve been to all 49 meetings,” whereas the board has failed to show on numerous occasions.

“There has been no movement [by the board] on issues of merit pay, health insurance, salary, class size or better resources for the kids,” said Smith. “Our school is a very good school,” but even with its selective enrollment status, Lane struggles with a deteriorating physical plant and lacks technology such as smart boards. “We have inadequate resources for our kids.”

“I think there are definitely issues on both sides; eventually they’re going to have to figure something out,” said Vasquez. Meanwhile, she spent Thursday at Ravenswood attending parent-teacher meet-and-greets. “It’s business as usual. We have to be ready for the first day.”


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  • rjl

    I really hope we can avoid a strike, but I’m getting my ducks in a row, just in case. Sharp As A Tack (http://http://www.sharp-as-a-tack.com) is a great neighborhood resource whose main mission is to help students improve academic achievement by developing their cognitive abilities and to help them develop important life skills that will lead to a lifetime of successes in the classroom, in the community and within their families.
    They will offer programming during the strike at their home location, 4727 N. Clark St. and at The Center on Halsted. Programming will be from 9-4 with before and after care options. People can pre-register now to secure a spot and if there is not a strike or if all the days are not used, money will be refunded.

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