CPS: Some schools to stay open if teachers walk out

August 30, 2012

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(Becky Vevea/WBEZ)
Schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard talks to a student at Von Linne Elementary School Thursday.

More than a hundred public schools will stay open if the Chicago Teachers Union decides to go on strike.

Chicago public school officials released the details of the backup plan they’ve been working on since June.

District spokeswoman Becky Carroll said Thursday that the planning process started right after more than 20,000 teachers voted to give their leadership the power to call for a walk out if bargaining broke down.

CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard outlined the plan at Von Linne Elementary School on the city’s Northwest Side Thursday.

“The idea is to provide a safe environment or safe haven with meals for kids for about 4 hours a day,” he told reporters.

According to CPS, central office employees and other non-union staff will work at 145 school buildings, keeping kids occupied and providing meals. The buildings will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and there will be separate locations for elementary and high school students.

CPS cannot legally teach students, but the plan outline says principals, assistant principals, parent volunteers and others will provide activities like “arts, sports, journaling, independent reading and writing, puzzles and computer-based programs.

The district also released a request for proposals for any community group or faith organization to help provide safe places for kids to go if teachers walk off the job.

Last week, the Chicago Board of Education approved spending up to $25 million on a strike contingency plan.

Some students will not have school disrupted at all if the CTU calls a strike. That’s because teachers in the city’s roughly 100 public charter schools are not part of the union. Carroll said that the current back-up plan does not include any charters, nor does it propose increasing enrollment limits at those schools. If the district were going to allow charter schools to take more students than their contract allows, the Board of Education would need to approve it, Carroll said.  

CPS and CTU continue to negotiate the teachers’ contract and both sides have said meetings are planned throughout the holiday weekend.

Yesterday, the union filed a 10-day intent to strike notice, making September 10 the soonest date teachers could walk out. Union delegates meet Thursday night and could decide to set a tentative date.