Marcos Sandoval — a senior at Nicholas Senn High School in Edgewater — hasn’t been in school for more than a week due to approximately 32,000 teachers across the city on strike.
He said he’s been spending his time playing video games. He’s also been playing baseball on a community team, picking up more hours at work and catching up on sleep.
“We’re basically on a very long break, which is much-needed for the mental recuperation, but we’re also going to be falling very behind in our curriculum,” Sandoval, 17, said. “We were supposed to have a project due this week, but it got pushed back. I’m not complaining, but I was looking to boost my grade.”
Chicago Public School (CPS) students, such as Sandoval, haven’t been in class since Oct. 17, when the strike began. The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is calling for better pay and more resources for students, including fully staffed schools and smaller class sizes, according to the CTU’s website.
Thousands of families, including those in Rogers Park, have also been impacted by school closures due to the strike. It’s caused uncertainty about childcare and a drastic change in routine.
It’s unclear when classes will resume as negotiations between the union and CPS officials continue.
Despite being worried about falling behind in school, Sandoval said he thinks the strike is necessary because students throughout the city deserve to have nurses and librarians in their schools.
“I’m glad my teachers are fighting for it and getting the contract we all deserve,” Sandoval said. “I’m fully supportive and fully invested. I’m glad they’re doing this for us, not just for them.”
Alison Guerrin, a Rogers Park parent of two daughters and a son in CPS, said she thinks the strike is necessary, but it’s caused stress for her family because she has to find childcare. She said other parents in the neighborhood who are able to stay home have been watching her kids during the day. Guerrin said it’s hard for her to change shifts around as a part-time barista at Starbucks.
In one case, she found a parent to watch her kids for the next day, but that parent’s own child got sick and they had to change plans. This meant Guerrin had to miss an eight-hour shift.
Guerrin said her son thrives on a routine, so daily uncertainty has caused him to have meltdowns at night. She said he told her he doesn’t like not knowing where he’s going each day.
“This disruption in the schedule has really thrown him for a loop and that’s a really difficult part,” Guerrin, 40, said.
Despite the stress, Guerrin said she supports what the teachers are trying to accomplish. She said she even called the mayor’s office to let them know how the strike’s affected her and tell them she stands with the teachers.
Another parent in Rogers Park, Nicole Seguin, has six children. She’s a stay-at-home mom who also has a cleaning service on the side and she said having the kids home has been “extremely stressful” for her family.
Seguin’s two daughters are both in CPS schools and one of them has special needs. She said her daughter with special needs is in sixth grade, and “thrives on structure” so not having a routine is difficult for her. She said her house is tense with the girls unable to go to school and she’s had trouble finding ways to occupy her kids on a budget, so they often end up arguing with each other.
“I’m finding it hard to get them to do any homework,” Seguin, 44, said. “It’s just not their typical learning environment, so it’s been hard to make them do anything other than fighting.“
Seguin said she supports the mission of strike because her daughter with special needs had trouble accessing resources in the past. She said her daughter is supposed to have a one-on-one aide, but last year wasn’t able to have one due to a lack of funding.
In response to the lack of funding at her children’s schools, Seguin said she started a non-profit with other parents called Friends of the Fields to raise money for the schools and build community in the neighborhood.