The Chicago Teachers Union strike has forced parents to get creative about childcare options.
The city of Chicago opened up 144 schools on Monday, so working parents could still drop off their kids.
There were no classes at the designated schools, just activities supervised by cafeteria workers, janitors, security staff, and non-union administrators from the district's central office.
Walt Disney magnet school is hosting kids from a total of eight schools on Chicago's North Side. Its principal, Kathy Hagstrom, says those eight schools have a combined population of 6,500 kids, the largest total of any of the open schools.
"We were prepared for 2,000 students here," Hagstrom said. But only 40 or 50 kids showed up to watch movies and play in the gym. The number of kids nearly equaled that of their adult supervisors, with more than 40 adults present to supervise.
"My message to the parents is 'we're here for you,'" Hagstrom said.
The message however, is valid for the mornings only.
The schools opened their doors for only four hours, sending kids home at 12:30 in the afternoon.
In Lincoln Square, parents dropped their children off on the third floor of Luther Memorial Church for "Strike Camp." Wendy Katten of Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education, an advocacy group, set up the camp to provide parents with a longer childcare option than the four hours CPS school offered.
The camp ran from 9 A.M. to 3 P.M. and focused on "art projects, science kits, Magna-Tiles and Legos and sports." Katten was careful not to criticize the CPS plan, though she did say four hours wasn't sufficient for working parents and "it's too bad there's $25 million set aside for that. That's a lot of money."
When Amy Kozy heard about the Chicago Teachers’ Union strike Sunday night she saw a business opportunity.
“I was watching the news about the strike last night and my first thought was well, I guess maybe I could babysit and make a couple of extra bucks,” Kozy said. “I went on Craigslist and there were a huge number of other people doing exactly the same thing.”
Kozy has been on the hunt for a full-time teaching job in Chicago for more than a year. She works odd jobs and substitute teaches to make ends meet.
In her Craigslist ad, she offers in-home care starting at twelve dollars an hour. She cites her classroom experience as a bonus for parents in need of child care during the strike.
Kozy says parents can probably manage for a day or two. But if the strike goes much longer, she figures caregivers like her will be in high demand.
Argelia Chavez was a CPS teacher for 12 years before leaving the district to open her own educational center in June. Her center, Petite Giants, is in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood. It has room for about 20 children.
Chavez has some open seats - and she’s hoping to fill them with CPS students this week. She has posted ads online offering up an instructional child care setting during the strike.
“This is just temporary,” Chavez said. “I’m assuming hopefully in a week or so things will be settled.”
She said she hasn’t gotten many phone calls from parents yet. “I’m hoping that in the afternoon I’ll receive more phone calls from parents for the next few days,” Chavez said. “I think their hope now is that [the strike] won’t last beyond one or two days.”
Chavez said the teachers’ strike seemed like a “long-time coming” and is on the side of the union. She was prepared to strike during the last round of contract negotiations. “I think teachers were probably better prepared this time to sacrifice for the short term for greater job satisfaction and their rights being recognized in the long-term,” Chavez said.