Chicago teachers, students head back to school after strike
BY KARA SPAK AND KIM JANSSEN Staff Reporters September 19, 2012 8:22AM
- Brown: Teachers deserve to be heard
- Editorial: The strike is over; now ratify the deal
- Steinberg: Now that it's over, what did the teachers' strike mean
- Politics blog: Burke says strike had potential to 'really create a crisis'
- Winners and losers in teachers’ strike — Rahm Emanuel is both
- ‘Tremendous victories’: Details of the teachers contract
- Chicago students will make up lost days, but it’s not clear when
- Emanuel focuses on contract’s benefits, not new costs
- Exclusive: CTU’s Karen Lewis on Emanuel, Vitale — and Steinem
- Editorial: CPS must come clean on school closings
Updated: October 21, 2012 2:39PM
It’s back-to-school deja vu.
Chicago Public Schools students, teachers and parents experienced a second round of first-day nerves mixed with excitement Wednesday as they headed back to class after the seven-day teachers’ strike, the first one in Chicago in 25 years.
After months of tension that culminated in the walkout, all sides on Wednesday seemed to find consensus in their shared relief that school was back in session.
“We’re happy the whole thing is over,” said Jill Rymer, mother to twin second-graders Julian and Sophia, 7, at Waters Elementary in Lincoln Square. “It was messy. I’m just glad it’s done.”
A dental hygienist, Rymer sent her kids to stay with their grandparents in Wisconsin last week.
Waters parent Michael Heltzer pulled up in his BMW motorcycle to drop off his two children — George, 13, and Estelle, 10 — riding in the open-air sidecar.
“I think there was some frustration but at least in my family, we understood this had to get resolved,” Heltzer said. “We love Waters.”
Nancy Byrne, a crossing guard at the school, greeted some returning students with hugs.
“There’s a lot of traffic today,” she said, smiling. “All the kids are back.”
Waiting for his bus, Theo Brady, a third-grader at Edison Regional Gifted Center, was excited to see some familiar faces after a week of sitting at home.
“I didn’t like the strike,” he said. “I really missed all of my old classmates. Plus we have the best teacher in school.”
Blanca Hernandez, whose son Octavio is a fourth-grader at Greeley Elementary in Lake View, said she wanted him back in school but felt the teachers needed to take a stand against what she sees as the dangerous encroachment of charter schools.
“All of this is about the future of the kids,” she said. “Education is the most important thing for our country. I feel like charter schools are going toward privatized schools. I don’t like that.”
Beaming teachers wearing red Chicago Teachers Union T-shirts walked back into Daley Academy Elementary together at the 8 a.m. bell Wednesday.
“It’s good to be back,” said Bob Konopken, a physical education teacher at the Back of the Yards school. “The teachers got what they needed, the kids are going to get what they needed and the city’s going to get what it needs, too. Whenever that happens in a negotiation, it’s a win for everybody.”
Daley parents seemed relieved the strike was over, too.
“I’m excited,” said Dominique Sanders as she dropped off her son Diavoni, 6. “I work two jobs, at Popeye’s Chicken and at a phone store, so it’s been tough.”
Sanders drove her son to stay with his grandmother on the West Side every day last week. Despite the inconvenience, Sanders supported the strike.
Diavoni looked less than thrilled to be back in class as he lined up with classmates. Asked whether he preferred school or staying with Grandma, he brightened and — sorry Grandma! — said, “I like school better.”
At Amundsen High School, 5110 N. Damen, Principal Anna Pavichevich greeted streams of students pouring into the school before the 7:45 a.m. bell.
An Tran, 16, a junior, said “for the most part” he was glad to be back. A defensive end on the school football team, he spent the week working out and was ready for the season to resume full-force.
“I have no idea why it happened and I don’t care,” he said.
Amundsen senior Maame Atta-Krah, 17, said she closely followed the news coverage of the strike and supported the walkout.
“I felt what the teachers needed for them was for us as well,” she said. “I feel there is too much emphasis on” standardized testing.
Danielle Geronimo, 16, an Amundsen junior, greeted the school day with “mixed emotions.”
“It’s nice that we get to continue junior year but it’s really hard to wake up in the morning,” she said. She said the teachers on the picket line were right to be concerned about large class sizes.
“They’re saying classes are really big and they are,” she said.
Her varsity volleyball teammate, Imani Hawkins, 16, thought the strike could have been avoided.
“If they really wanted us to be in school, they wouldn’t keep us out of school,” she said.
For senior Michelle Castrejon, 18, starting school now meant she won’t be graduating in July.
“It feels good to be back,” she said.