CPS to hold tele-townhall for parents about strike plan

September 6, 2012 (CHICAGO)

On Thursday from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., officials will hold a phone-in townhall on the details of "Children First," a plan that will provide services for children in the event of a Chicago Teachers Union strike. Call 888-886-6602, and then input 19760 followed by the # (pound) sign when prompted.

"We're not trying to run schools. We're not looking for instruction to be going on in schools. This really is a support system for kids around breakfast, for lunch and for some activities," said Jean-Claude Brizard, Chicago Public Schools CEO.

Parents can sign their children up for a Children First site, and are being encouraged to do so ahead of time to ensure staff at the site is best prepared. Online sign-up is open now for parents at www.cps.edu/childrenfirst

The 144 school sites are spread across the city and would be open if there's a strike from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Among them is Sandoval Elementary on the city's Southwest Side where some parents were concerned Thursday about how kids would be assigned.

"A lot of kids from other schools, they're coming to this institution and they're going to be people we don't even know. So I don't think it's going to be safe," said Sonia Avila, CPS parent.

"Her being next to other kids that are from other schools and stuff and not knowing them, she's not going to want to come," said Miguel Garcia, CPS parent.

CPS says the locations would provide breakfast and lunch and be staffed by administrators, non-union central office workers and staff from vendors hired by CPS.

Depending on the number of kids who sign up, CPS is aiming for a staff-to-student ratio of 25 to 1.

"We're trying to cluster schools," said Brizard. "We will keep neighborhoods as whole as possible and vendors who are quite familiar with the schools and how schools are run."

In addition, CPS has designated dozens of churches safe haven sites. Many more houses of worship will be open independently, and on Thursday many of their ministers called on CPS and the union to come to an agreement.

"I think there ought to be a 24 hour lock-in of all negotiators. Get into a room and nobody comes out until the deal is done," said Pastor Cy Fields. "America knows about our challenge in protecting our children. And now we're telling the whole nation we may have a problem educating our children."

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