Parents around Seattle make some mad dashes around the city to find an open child-care slot as public-school teachers begin their strike.
The unexpected extension of summer vacation by the Seattle teachers strike left parents Wednesday chasing after child-care options, juggling schedules and turning to friends and relatives for help.
Seattle community centers opened from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with staff added — at city cost — to cover the school day at no extra charge to families.
But five of 16 centers were filled by Tuesday morning, and city leaders warned there weren’t enough slots at the other centers to meet the demand.
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“We’re bringing in pre-school-program staff and trying to retain local college students who worked in our summer programs, but our capacity is finite,” said Lori Chisholm, a manager with Seattle Parks and Recreation.
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Chisholm said staff asked already enrolled parents to use alternatives to the community center, if that was an option, to leave space for parents who couldn’t take time off work.
YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs programs also made room for the influx of kids.
Ruth Michaelis, a doctor, ran inside Thurgood Marshall Elementary School’s YMCA program at 7:30 a.m., her hands raised in prayer. Her two children, ages 9 and 5, had attended the summer program at the school, but for the school year she signed up for only occasional before-school drop-ins.
“Can I bring my kids?” she asked program supervisor Robin Glassberg.
When Glassberg answered that she had room, at least for this week, Michaelis cheered: “Yea! Robin, you made my week.”
Glassberg said the program isn’t staffed as fully as during summer, and can only take up to 30 children. The school has an enrollment of about 500. First priority goes to families already registered for before- and after- school care, she said. “We’re fully enrolled.”
Glassberg said many working parents take off the first week of school to help with their children’s transition. She predicted the big crush would come next week, if the strike continues.
At Miller Community Center on Capitol Hill, Miriam Roskin dropped off her 10-year-old son. Usually he attends before- and after-school care at Montlake Community Center, but those children were redirected to Miller because of more indoor space, she said.
She was headed to her job with the city’s housing office and praised city officials for stepping up to open community centers during the strike.
“I’m so grateful to the city for doing this,” she said. “What would we do if they hadn’t provided this backstop?”
Some school-based care programs weren’t operating. The Community Day School Association, which provides before- and after-school care at nine schools, planned to open next Monday.
Karina Luboff, mother of two elementary students, waited at a Metro bus stop before 8 a.m. Wednesday. She planned to take her kids to work with her: the picket line outside Seattle’s Interagency Academy alternative high school where she teaches.
She “absolutely” backs the teachers, but said if the strike goes on longer, her children will likely spend some days with their grandparents.