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Parents appreciate extended hours

Parents including TwannMartinez standing with her first grade daughter MakaylTopel talk about first full day child care during teacher's strike

Parents, including Twanna Martinez standing with her first grade daughter Makayla Topel, talk about the first full day of child care during the teacher's strike outside Peterson Elementary School on Thursday, September 13, 2012 in Chicago. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: October 15, 2012 10:03AM

Working parents complained.

And on the fourth day of a strike that has forced those parents to scramble for child care, Chicago Public Schools responded.

Its half-day strike contingency program, Children First, operating in about a third of the schools, on Thursday was extended by two hours — to 2:30 p.m.

It was almost a full school day. And many parents were indeed pleased.

But the gratitude of some was tempered by weariness of the strike.

“I was happy they changed the time. Every day I’ve been leaving work and running here to pick her up, dropping her off at a friend’s and running back to work — 2:30 is much better,” said Veronica Mejia, 28, picking up her 6-year-old at Peterson Elementary, 5510 N. Christiana.

“But even better would be this strike ending. It needs to end. When will it end?” the young mother asked in exasperation.

Many parents have depended on Children First this week — 11,000 students had been registered for the 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. program held at 147 schools.

But actual attendance turned out to be much lower. Working parents complained about the midday pick-up. CPS made the decision Wednesday to extend them.

Peterson, on the Northwest Side, saw a total of 110 kids dropped off Thursday, according to Adam Douglas Parrott-Sheffer, the school’s principal.

That was an increase over Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, a volunteer said.

“The added time is bittersweet,” said Michael Thomas, 35, a full-time student who works nights, while his wife works full-time days. He was picking up his three children, ages 11, 8 and 6, from Peterson.

“I was excited about not having to leave school so early to pick them up, though my professors have been understanding. But at the same time, it’s two more hours of play. My kids are not getting their education,” Thomas said.

“At the end of the day, it stinks that it comes down to this. You think that adults should be able to compromise for the sake of the kids. End this thing, so parents can stop scrambling to keep their kids safe.”

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