Portland parents planning for child care if teachers strike

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Many parents with children in Portland Public Schools are starting to plan child care as they realize a teacher strike may become reality as early as next week.

For parents like Pat O'Herron, it will be a juggling act of schedules. He's a doctor working 24-hour shifts at times, while his wife works part time. They are emailing and texting several times a day with other parents trying to figure out when each of them may take a turn to watch all their kids.

"It's going to take a lot of jumping through hoops, but we'll figure something out," O'Herron said.

He doesn't want his 6-year-old daughter crossing the picket line even if going to class is an option.

Neither does parent Meg Miller, but she said keeping her two boys home isn't easy, either. She is planning to take a vacation or unpaid day from work to contribute to a pool of parent volunteers ready to watch groups of students during a strike.

"We're full time working parents," Miller said. "It took me tons of planning to make sure we've got a calendar in place for what works for both of our boys."

Miller is upset the school district didn't provide more information for parents sooner.

"I just think it's ridiculous that it's just now coming out," Miller said.

Here is what we do know from the district:

  • Thursday, Feb. 20: Strike could start. Schools will be closed for staff training.
  • Friday, Feb. 21: Schools closed for staff training
  • Monday, Feb. 24: Schools closed for staff training
  • Tuesday, Feb 25: Prioritize opening elementary, middle and PK/K-8 schools

That information still isn't good enough for parents like Meg Miller.

"It still doesn't have any information about who's going to be in the classroom teaching our kids, where they find these teachers and what are the teacher-student ratios," Miller said. "You would never just drop your kids off some place without knowing who is there to take care of them."

The district is reaching out to contracted substitutes in Portland as well as substitutes in other Oregon districts to be temporary replacement teachers. The district has not released how many people have signed on.

While Miller and O'Herron don't plan to send their children to school either way, they want more information to help other families who don't have another choice.

"It's going to be difficult," O'Herron said. "I think it's going to be a real hardship for a lot of parents and families."