POLITICS
01/17/2019 05:45 EST | Updated 01/17/2019 10:59 EST

Los Angeles Parents Are Scrambling For Child Care As Teachers Strike

The school district has half a million students. Only a fraction of them have been showing up this week.

LOS ANGELES ― After three days at home with her kids amid the Los Angelesteachers strike, Cindy Goodale has to have a sense of humor about her upended routine.

“I’m ready to get them back to school,” laughed Goodale, who works from home and has found her usual flow interrupted this week by the sounds and needs of young children. 

Yet Goodale is one of the lucky ones. She is able to care for her children in a safe setting. For many other families around the city, the teachers strike has meant scrambling last minute for child care or sending their kids to a school where instruction is minimal.

Teachers from the Los Angeles Unified School District have been on strike since Monday in hopes of securing a contract that guarantees smaller class sizes and more support staff. The strike impacts about half a million students in 900 schools and over 30,000 teachers.

Schools have stayed open this week, staffed with around 400 non-unionized substitutes to cover the work of tens of thousands of teachers. Administrative and central office staff are also being dispersed across schools to supervise. Students describe being huddled in auditoriums, watching movies, playing games or doing busy work. But for many kids, the services offered by their school are a necessity, including the free or reduced-price meals.

On the first day of the strike, the district reported that around 144,000 students went to school. On the second day, that number rose to about 170,000. And on Wednesday, it dropped back down to around 130,000 students. 

Thousands of children are home with parents and caretakers or gathered at various locations around the city, rallying with their teachers and visiting museums that are offering free admission during the strike. 

Goodale decided to keep her kids home this week in solidarity with the teachers. For others hoping to do the same, it has been a challenge.

ROBYN BECK via Getty Images
Some students are walking the picket lines with their teachers.

Sage Wells, a mother of two elementary students, has been scrambling all week to find child care. On Monday, she had planned to send her kids to school wearing red, just like the teachers on strike. (Red, the color of the national Red for Ed movement, signifies solidarity with striking educators.) That morning, Wells stopped by her children’s school to picket with the teachers, with plans to have a babysitter drop the kids off later.

But after protesting with the teachers, she couldn’t bear the idea of her children crossing the picket line. It’s been a daily struggle to find child care since then. Wells and her husband both work full time.

“After being out there and seeing the teachers, and seeing that their hearts were breaking each time a child went to school, I was like, I can’t stand out here and picket with them and then send our kids to school. It felt hypocritical,” said Wells, whose children attend Mountain View Elementary School.

On Thursday, if the strike continues, Stephanie Levinson and other teachers from San Fernando Elementary School are going to reach out to parents directly to see how they’re doing and offer more information about the strike.

“We’ve had some parents say they didn’t understand teachers weren’t getting paid,” said Levinson, who has been picketing every morning outside the school with her colleagues. “Seeing kids come in the morning has been hard. They give us hugs; they don’t understand.”

Some kids have been going to school not out of necessary, but out of choice. Liza Valenzuela’s elementary-aged son asked her if he could go to school, she told HuffPost on Monday. She didn’t want to deny him, even though she was unsure how productive it would be. 

“He was adamant about coming,” she said standing outside Marianna Elementary School.