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LAUSD strike has parents fighting for daycare sites


Christina Lowe didn’t expect to take her young son and daughter to Pan Pacific Park Recreation Center from their home in Sherman Oaks.

But the Los Angeles Unified School District workers’ strike had closed the schools, and their children needed something to do. And there she was, in the pouring rain at 9:45 on a Tuesday morning, caught up in the chaos.

“We found out this was happening at the last minute,” Lowe said. “I was probably going to stay home with them, but they are bored.

“Even this morning, they woke up and they weren’t eating the same thing. They’re like, ‘I think I’m clueless because it’s Tuesday and I think I’m supposed to be at school.

The recreation center, a designated child care facility operated by the City of Los Angeles, was a window into the confusion that arises when the daily routines of more than 420,000 children and their families are suddenly thrown upside down.

The facility, in the Fairfax district, required prior registration. But at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, many of those who had signed up failed to show up. Many other families arrived without knowing that a registration system existed.

The site was one of the few that did double duty, providing grab-and-go meals and on-site childcare.

A steady stream of minivans, SUVs and compact sports cars lined up around the block to eat while dozens of elementary school students sang songs and played tic-tac-toe inside a gym.

“We were anticipating big, big numbers,” said site director Eric Calhoun. “This really was very fast for all of us. They told me two days ago, three days ago, ‘Hey, you’re going to be a site’”.

Baasansuren Altanchimeg, 27, said she found out too late that care was available during the strike.

She took her sons, Bujin, 5, who is in transitional kindergarten at Third Street Elementary School, and Brian, 3, who attends an LAUSD preschool in Chinatown, to pick up food around 10 am and regretted that the whole process has been frustrating.

“I had to call work saying, ‘School’s closed; I can’t work,” said Altanchimeg, a nail technician.

Altanchimeg is also in school, studying to become a dental assistant. She arranged for a friend of hers to take care of her because she can’t miss class for three days.

Throughout the huge school district, some designated child care centers were full, and others were nearly empty.

Some parents said they were frustrated to learn over the weekend and into Monday night the details about which sites would be available.

Parents reported various levels of academic readiness within LAUSD. Some praised their schools and principals for making sure they would have materials, and for the assurance that more resources would be available upon request.

Some teachers made sure their students had relevant work available at home. Other teachers failed to prepare materials, parents reported, and some schools provided less clarity than necessary on academics, they said.

At Parmelee Avenue Elementary School in South Los Angeles, Cynthia Salazar walked to the school, another daycare site, with her 8-year-old son, sighing as she dropped him off around 8:15 a.m. in the school’s auditorium.

At the time, his son was one of only three students. A boy in a Spider-Man jacket and another in a white hoodie sat at desks, silently staring at laptops.

Salazar understood the fight for better wages and a tenuous balance between work and childcare. He had to rush home to get dressed for work at a nearby grocery store, where he hands out food samples.

“Schools closed. For me? It’s a big problem,” Salazar said.

Shenandoah Elementary School in La Cienega Heights was another site where the school district offered free child care.

Norma Leandro, a cafeteria worker who usually spends her mornings serving students free breakfast, had yet to see a single child enter the building at 8 a.m., she said.

“We expected a lot of children here to receive care, but no one showed up,” said Leandro, who was on strike.

Coordinator Christine Ferreira, of the teachers’ union, United Teachers Los Angeles, said the school had worked hard to inform families about the strike and inform parents that care would be available.

“I was a little worried about it,” she said of the anticipated chaos Tuesday morning. “But I haven’t seen any children. We were anticipating that we might have some kids saying ‘wait, is school closed?’ But we haven’t seen any of that.”

About 20 students were at the Rosecrans Recreation Center in Gardena, some huddled around a laptop watching a video, others playing Jenga at a table.

Their parents were desperate the day before, worried that they would not have a place to take their children during the work day, according to Wesley King, director of the Rosecrans Recreation Center.

But the center is home to an after-school program that serves students from the nearby elementary school, King said, “so it’s been an easy transition.”

“If it wasn’t raining, then we would go outside and use our soccer field playing Ultimate Frisbee or something,” King said. “Now, we’ll probably watch a movie.”

Monica Arrazola, who is involved with the parent advocacy group our voicespoke Tuesday morning during public comment before a closed-door meeting of the Los Angeles Board of Education, which met to discuss labor issues and other matters.

Arrazola has children at Le Conte Middle School and Hollywood High School and demanded an end to the strike over the harm to the students, who were out of class for more than a year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They can’t enjoy their school, their teachers, their friends,” said Arrazola, who was also among parents who, earlier in the school year, called for a comprehensive school safety plan after a student died of a fentanyl overdose. at Bernstein High. in Hollywood

“We have experienced a lot of violence, surrounded by evil, and now we are on strike. These students are being emotionally impacted.”

He said he recognizes that there is a right to strike, but “please ask the union to have a heart for the children.”

Arrazola did not use childcare services on Tuesday, instead keeping her children at home. On Tuesday afternoon, his plan was to take them to the Los Angeles Zoo, because the city was offering free admission to students.

Lourdes Lopez, who earns money selling items door-to-door, has children in seventh, fifth and first grade in LAUSD schools, and she also supported them at home. One of her children has a severe disability that requires constant and qualified supervision.

The strike, he said, hurts “economically, mentally and let’s not even talk about academics.”

Silvia Flores has a son in sixth grade at King Middle School in Los Feliz. Without brothers and sisters, she has a hard time managing at home when there is no school.

Flores has set a time for him to do homework and keeps himself busy with chores, but also lets him play computer games to keep him from getting sad.

“It got depressed during the pandemic when campuses were closed,” he said. “And now with the strike he is frustrated because he does not go to school.”

Times Staff Writer Andrew Campa and Debbie Truong contributed to this report.

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