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Low Student Turnout at "Children First" Sites

Little more than 5 percent of the 350,000 affected by the strike attended Monday programs available at 147 schools and alternate sites

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    NEWSLETTERS

    "We had donuts and coffee ready for families because we anticipated possible lines," YMCA spokeswoman Sherrie Medina said. "We can handle 200 kids at South Side YMCA, and we had about 35."

    As parents prepared for another day of child care adjustments during Day 2 of the Chicago teachers strike, the Children First sites designated by the city's school district weren't among their plans.

    About 18,000 students, a little more than 5 percent of the 350,000 affected by the strike, attended Monday programs available at 147 schools and alternate sites, according to Chicago Public Schools.

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    The number includes 11,000 kids who signed up at the still-open schools, 2,150 who took part in Chicago Public Library programs, and 2,000 who showed up to Boys & Girls Club of Chicago, Salvation Army and YMCA sites.

    Sherrie Medina, a YMCA spokeswoman, said the turnout was lower than expected.

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    "This is, in my view, a strike of choice, and it's the wrong choice for our children," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday of the first Chicago teachers strike in 25 years. "It's not necessary. We need to just finish the job."

    "We had donuts and coffee ready for families because we anticipated possible lines," Medina said. "We can handle 200 kids at South Side YMCA, and we had about 35."

    Medina said she's heard some parents are treating the strike as a snow day, hopeful of a quick resolution.

    Kimberly Morris, one of hundreds of parents left needing alternate child care, said she hopes the strike ends soon.

    "I have to work and so do most of my family members," Morris said. "It's been inconvenient, but you understand where teachers are coming from."

    Parent Lee Earle, who has twin boys in CPS, said he's upset that no info has been given to parents articulating the issues still on the table. 

    "Teachers have done worst PR job in the world," Earle said. "I have spent $240 in child care over the last two days."

    Medina said the YMCA facilities are open and ready. "We have extended daycare from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.," she said.

    Beginning Thursday, if the strike should go that long, the 147 "Chicago First" sites will be open six hours -- from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. -- instead of the four hours they've been available.

    The aim, said Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, is to keep students safe and engaged, and to feed those students who depend upon school meals.

    "Putting our students first is the No. 1 priority. Since the CTU chose to strike on Sunday, parents are seeking greater support, and we have responded by increasing hours to more closely mirror a traditional school day," he said in a written statement.

    NBC Chicago has an array of reporters and producers covering the Chicago teacher strike. Check our live blog for continuous coverage and updates throughout the strike.