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Kids: Week of playing, watching movies at school during strike not bad

Camaro Walker her daughter Palammi Walker 9 speak outside StocktElementary School Chicago Ill. Friday September 14 2012. | Andrew A.

Camaro Walker and her daughter Palammi Walker, 9, speak outside of Stockton Elementary School in Chicago, Ill., on Friday, September 14, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 16, 2012 6:12AM

On Monday, some of the kids took in their unfamiliar surroundings, anxiously wondering, “Where’s my teacher?”

By Friday, many of those same kids at Stockton Elementary School in Uptown — one of 147 strike contingency sites in the Chicago Public Schools system — were wondering, how come school isn’t always like this?

And who can blame them? Kids at Stockton spent the week watching G-rated movies, playing board games and enjoying “dance parties,” among other activities, students and staff said.

Palammi Walker, 9, a fourth-grader who wants to be both a doctor and a lawyer when she grows up, thoroughly enjoyed her low-stress week.

“I played some games, I ate lunch and I was at the playground,” Palammi said, after finishing up Friday afternoon.

CPS set up the “Children First” site locations to give parents a childcare option during the strike. The sites had been open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, and until 2:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday. CPS said they provide “a safe environment, food and engaging activities.”

Palammi’s mother wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about those activities.

“It’s not school,” Camaro Walker said. “It’s basically daycare. They play all day. She can do that at home. . . . They need to be in school.”

But one teacher’s assistant at Stockton, who didn’t want her name used, said each day was well planned, with CPS principals providing a written schedule for staff to follow.

“It was like a well-oiled machine,” the teacher’s assistant said.

“The main thing was not to worry the kids, but to tell them that everything was going to be fine and everything was going to be solved,” she said. “And that they would see their teachers soon.”

The assistant said she loved the low student-to-teacher ratio.

“The kids really liked the attention,” she said. “Today, I showed a kid how to write his name, and in a matter of 10 minutes, he was writing his name.”

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