Parents Scramble to Make Strike Plans for Kids

"The children need to be in school," said grandparent Betty O'Conner. "They need to be in school. This is ludicrous"

When Renee Edwards took her son to Ray Elementary School on Chicago's Southwest Side Monday morning, she was met with multiple teachers on strike, carrying picket signs and chanting.

"I'm very frustrated that it's taken this long," Edwards said, "and that parents were not told until 10 p.m. last night what the outcome would be, so it's just frustrating."

Edwards said she has no choice but to bring her son with her to work on Monday.

"My employer is very understanding and I can take him to work, but I won't be as productive today and we are trying to think long-term," she said. "So tomorrow we will send him to my parents in Wisconsin and then try to arrange it."

About 29,000 Chicago Public School teachers hit the picket lines Monday morning instead of going to class as they declared the first strike in the city in 25 years. CPS in turn left 144 schools open for half-days so children had a place to go for continued activities. 

"We are absolutely prepared," said Ray Elementary School Principal Tatia Beckwith. "We are ready to go. This has been a plan that we have been working on from the district and the network, and we've gotten a lot of support from the city and we are ready to go."

The plan hasn't fully sunk in, though, yet. As of 9 a.m. only four of 30 registered kids showed up to Rebano Safe Haven, an alternative location for parents to send their children while teachers are on strike, and six students were at New Life in Pilsen.

"We are giving kids and their parents a place to go during this strike for as long as it lasts," said Lynette Santiago with Rebano. "But we hope it's quickly resolved."

Lisa Samra, another concerned Ray Elementary parent, said she stands with the teachers even if it's hard.

"We stand absolutely with the teachers. We have to," Samra said. "Of course it's a headache. It's a heart break. It's a heart break for the teachers. They want to be with the children."

And parents want their children with teachers.

Betty O'Conner, who brought her granddaughter to school, called the strike "horrible, it's terrible."

O'Conner said her daughter works and is stressed out about finding a place for her child to go all day. "The children need to be in school," she said. "They need to be in school. This is ludicrous."

Jean Clement, a fourth grade teacher of 30 years, said the strike is about education and kids getting what they need.

"I had 41 students in my classroom last year," Clement said. "It was very challenging for them."

Still teachers hope the strike ends soon.
"We hope it's a day and that we are back in the classroom tomorrow."

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.

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