Just like hundreds of thousands of other parents in Chicago, I’m on pins and needles waiting to see if city government and the Chicago Teachers Union can reach a deal. If not, we can expect a teachers strike on Thursday, with no clear idea how long their strike will last.
Plus, SEIU Local 73, which represents 7,000 workers in CPS as well as more than 80% of Chicago Park District staff, has joined forces with the CTU and will also walk out on Thursday if their contract is not settled, too. While there has been some recent progress on talks between the school district and the teachers union, SEIU 73’s contract negotiaion remains stalled.
All this means parents–especially parents on the South and West sides of the city–could be scrambling for backup child care.
In 2012, about 5,000 children attended park district programming during the teacher strike. This year, the park district employees who staffed those programs will be on picket lines, too. As of late last week, the Chicago Park District had not informed the public about any additional resources for parents.
Strike Camps: Great in Theory, Pricey in Practice
Many groups and media outlets offer lists of “strike camps.” But these programs cost somewhere between $25 and $100 per day. That’s out of reach for many parents right from the start. Other parents could afford a few days of these camps, but not a whole week or more.
According to the CPS contingency plan, school buildings will be open during a strike. Breakfast and lunch will be provided. The district also provides a locator map. The map shows where children can go during school hours in the event of a teacher strike: schools, libraries, nonprofit organizations. CPS wants parents to use the map and register their children in advance at their preferred site. With numbers in hand before a strike begins, they can estimate the number of staff and meals they will need.
As for me, I’m pretty lucky. I work from home. When we need a change of scenery, I’ll take my kiddo over to the library. I’ll keep on working. My biggest problem during a teachers strike will be too much screen time for my daughter. But my neighbors here on the South Side are likely to face much bigger challenges keeping their kids safe, even if a teacher strike only lasts a few days.