CPS’ contingency half-day programs were open the first day of the strike
by maudlyne ihejirika Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org September 10, 2012 9:26PM
Parents wait for their children to leave Peter Reinberg Public school on the Northwest side of Chicago on Sept. 10, 2012. Parents could have their children there for a half day of recess planned activities while the teachers are on strtike. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times
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Updated: October 12, 2012 6:13AM
Doreen Torry brought her 6-year-old to one of the Chicago Public Schools’ Children First sites Monday because she was off from work.
On a workday, picking her child up at 12:30 p.m. isn’t an option, she said.
And stay-at-home mom Patricia Jones brought her own first-grader to the program at Mays Elementary, 838 W. Marquette, because her little girl was bored. The 32-year-old mom said four hours out of her hair is better than nothing.
They were among dozens of parents who dropped off children at Mays, host to one of CPS’ contingency half-day programs — on the first day of the strike.
All 144 sites operated 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
At Mays, in Englewood, a school administrator estimated some 100 students were dropped off by parents. Overall, nearly 11,000 students were at the sites, officials said.
Three additional sites are opening at Harper High in Englewood, Caldwell Elementary in Avalon Park, and Hirsch High in Grand Crossing.
“If you work, 12:30 is no help,” noted Torry, 32, who also has a 12-year-old son. He was safely settled in classes Monday at Amandla Charter School.
“I had the day off, so I brought my daughter up here to see what they’re offering. I really don’t know what I’m going to do the rest of the week,” Torry said. “Her father works overnight, so I guess he’ll have to keep her. But he’ll be tired. I guess it’s time to transfer her to a charter school.”
Dozens of red-shirted Chicago Teachers Union members picketed the front entrance of Mays and other Children First sites throughout the morning. Signs directed parents and students to avoid them by alternate entrances.
At Sandoval Elementary, 5534 S. St. Louis, only three students showed up, while a nearby park and basketball courts were filled with kids of all ages.
“We had prepared for more,” said Raul Bermejo, a site administrator there.
And the high schools didn’t fare much better.
About two dozen students showed up at Curie High School, 4959 S. Archer, a security guard said. And some weren’t happy with their teachers outside.
“I don’t think they should be asking for a raise when we need [supplies] in the classroom,” said 16-year-old junior Stephanie Lopez, whose mother attended the program with her Monday to see if it was worth it.
“If it’s not, I’ll stay home,” Lopez said.
At Lane Tech High School, 2501 W. Addison, a handful of teens trickled in.
Some had an opposite view of where the blame lay.
“My dad signed me up,” said Logan Means, a 17-year-old senior who was less than thrilled to have been dropped off there. He complained, “This isn’t cool. CPS should have been more responsible and respected their employees.”
Most students gave the contingency program a thumbs up — but not for anything educational.
“Four hours of straight recess,” sixth-grader Diana Adnane opined as she exited the site at Reinberg Elementary, 3425 N. Major, where she said some two dozen students spent the morning either playing outside, playing computer and board games inside, or watching “The Lorax.”
Some two dozen students also showed up at Bell Elementary, 3730 N. Oakley, some, according to parents, unaware classes were canceled by the strike.
It apparently happened at other schools, according to one community group.
Members of Logan Square Concerned Citizens said they drove around to CPS schools in their area Monday morning, and ended up delivering three stranded students from Darwin Elementary, at 3116 W. Belden, to a nearby freedom school operated by Armitage Baptist Church, at 2451 N. Kedzie.
At Mays, it was clear from parents polled that Children First will only help stay-at-home mothers or those who have someone to pick up children mid-day.
“I didn’t sign her up over the weekend. I’m just hoping they’ll still take her,” said Jones, the stay- at-home mom who was arriving with her bored 6-year-old as the program was ending. “There’s no way I can have her at home all day. There’s no way I can keep this little girl busy enough.”
Another stay-at-home mom, Lauronia Ditiway, 51, picked up her 9-year-old and 14-year-old, with plans to give them afternoon lessons at home. “This is terrible. The kids don’t want to be at home with mom. They want to be in school. CPS should have long worked this out,” Ditiway said.
Contributing: Lisa Donovan and Kara Spak