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In Hyde Park, parents plan ‘Camp Solidarity’

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In the event of a teachers’ strike Monday, Hyde Park parents and supporters are planning a free day camp – called “Camp Solidarity” – to show support for teachers and give families an alternative to crossing picket lines.

Parents, community members, and local artists will offer “a free full day of informal, engaging childcare – nature walks, art activities, silent reading, free play – with lunch provided” at Nichols Park, according to an e-mail to community members.

At 55th and Kimbark, the park is a couple blocks from Ray School, 5631 S. Kimbark, which CPS has designated as one of 144 “contingency sites” where students can get meals and supervision.

One difference:  while CPS sites will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Camp Solidarity will be open until 3:30 p.m.

At CPS sites, children will be in “a babysitting situation with tons of kids they don’t know, and for just a half day,” said local artist and Ray parent Laura Shaeffer.  “Where are the kids going to go after lunch?”  Other childcare options cost money, she pointed out..

Activities planned for day one include tree identification, gardening, singing and drumming, sign painting and chalk painting, and storytelling, she said.

Parents will be leafleting outside Ray to inform families dropping children off that they have a local alternative, said Joy Clendenning, who has children in three CPS schools including Ray.

“I don’t blame families who need to make sure their children are in a safe environment, but I don’t like how CPS is putting people in the position of having to cross a picket line,” she said.  “I wish they’d worked with churches and park districts and not decided to open schools during the strike.”

She added: “I think solidarity with the teachers is really important.”

According to the e-mail notice, “In their fight for a fair contract,” CTU “is advocating for better learning conditions for all of our school children.”

At Ray, “teachers have really been talking to parents – the PTA and LSC have held coffees for parents and teachers, so parents really understand the issues,” said Hannah Hayes, another CPS parent.

“Parents understand the issue of class size,” she said.  “That’s something parents really get.”

Class size “is a big issue at Ray,” said Clendenning.  Because class size guidelines are based on school-wide averages, there have been classes there with as many as 40 students, she said.

Ray was attended by the children of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan when he was chief of CPS.