Chicago begins contingency planning in event of teacher strike

Chicago has started planning for how its worst-case scenario — a joint walkout of its 25,000 teachers and 8,000 support staff, bus aides, and lunchroom workers — could impact local families. 

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and schools chief Janice Jackson have said the 514 district-run schools impacted by the strike would remain open and minimally staffed by principals and non-unionized support personnel. During the city’s 2012 strike, central office staff members were deployed to schools to help manage students whose families did not have other alternatives. 

The city’s 119 charter schools will remain in session during any district teacher walkout. 

During the last citywide teacher strike in 2012, about 5,000 students attended programs run by the city’s park district. This year, the union that represents the majority of park workers is threatening a strike on the same day as teachers, which could narrow options for parents. 

On Wednesday night, after the teachers union announced a strike date of Oct. 17, Chicago Public Schools published a contingency plan webpage.

“The safety of our students remains our highest priority,” Jackson said on a video atop the page. 

After-school programs, games, and sports and arts practices would be closed. 

Chicago Public Schools has also posted an address lookup tool that will let families see child care options as the strike date nears. Some libraries might run daytime programs, the city has said.

Meanwhile, community organizations are stepping up. The YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, which offered day camps during charter school strikes last school year, will offer a first-come, first-serve Schools Day Out program, which lets families drop off children from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 10 locations citywide. (Costs depend on location and hours served.) “Our program staff doesn’t just provide child care,” a spokeswoman for the YMCA said. “They implement an enriching, research-based curriculum.”

The Jewish Community Center of Chicago is planning strike-day camps that include an International Day and a Star Wars-themed day. The costs are $80 for 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. camps, and $20 for aftercare. 

Albany Park Community Center, which operates a center on the city’s Northwest Side and recently opened a second Bronzeville outpost, can care for around 100 children, up to age 12, at its site. The cost for families would be $25 a day.  

The parent advocacy group Raise Your Hand has begun compiling other options, such as the Beverly Arts Center’s “If CPS Strikes, We Have Your BAC-k Camp,” which would run from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily at a cost of $38 for members and $42 for non-members (scholarships will be available). 

Raise Your Hand will update the list of options on this site. 

Chalkbeat is surveying parents about their strike-related questions. You can submit a question in English or in Spanish, and we will do our best to get them answered.