As strike looms, churches pray and offer daycare

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The faithful joined the frenzy surrounding the ongoing negotiations between Portland Public Schools and its teachers union.

Almost two-dozen religious leaders signed an interfaith letter offering to support families if the strike happens as planned on Thursday, Feb. 20.

Meanwhile, district spokeswoman Christine Miles says negotiations happened at a "neutral location" on Sunday evening.

The teachers union, Portland Association of Teachers, posted a message on Facebook saying it received a new proposal and will need time to review it.

Both sides are scheduled to meet on Monday, according to a post on the union's Facebook page.

If there's no deal, the union says teachers will strike beginning this week.

PPS says a strike would close schools on Thursday, Friday and the following Monday, at the very least.

"What we're asking churches to do, if possible, is to open up space," said Rev. Chuck Currie, the minister of two churches including Sunnyside in Southeast Portland who spearheaded the interfaith campaign.

"This is a natural extension of the kind of ministry this church has offered for over 100 years," he said.

Sunnyside Church will allow the YMCA to use its facilities for free during a strike.

Pioneer United Methodist Church will offer daycare, according to a Facebook posting.

Religious institutions join a growing grassroots effort to match parents with daycare solutions.

On Facebook, parent groups across the city created localized pages and message boards that connect families with babysitters, tutors and community organizations.

You can find them by searching for these group names on Facebook: Portland Teachers and Parents Together, PTSCParentCoop, Portland Parents Organizing Childcare for Teacher's Strike, and many school-specific pages like MLC Teacher Strike Preparation.

A parent named Donna Martin offered to take a small group of kids to the art museum on Thursday if schools are closed due to a strike. She had one taker, as of Sunday evening.

Another parent posted a message asking for a babysitter, explaining that she and her husband work and can't stay home with their 6-year-old. Someone replied with a name and email address of someone seeking work.

Babysitter-hopefuls are also advertising their "strike services" on Craigslist.

Sibohan Burke is scouring Facebook and other online resources to build a comprehensive database of daycare solutions.

She provided a copy to KATU with about 60 to 80 entries as of Sunday evening, spanning large organizations that could accommodate many children to individual teenagers looking for babysitting jobs.

"Parents are anxious," said Rev. Currie, who is also a parent of two daughters who attend Portland Public Schools.

"I'm not going to cross the picket line, They'll probably be here at church with me," he said.

Unless, of course, the faithful's prayers are answered.

"Lord, we lift up the children of Portland Public Schools," a worshiper said during Sunday's services at Sunnyside Church.

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