Strike means day off for kids, lost wages for parents

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BURILNGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Thousands of Burlington parents had to change schedules Thursday to accommodate striking teachers. And for many, that meant taking a day off of work themselves.

Owen and Kameron wouldn't normally be in Battery Park on a Thursday afternoon. The seven and eight year-olds would be in class at Champlain Elementary. But with the teachers strike, they're here instead. And so is their mother, Tricia Guyette. It's not where she should be on a Thursday afternoon either.

"I would have been working and had wages coming in, and now I won't," Guyette said. She says she had to call out from her job as a cashier because her kids needed supervision. "I'm a single mom, so single parenting with two children in school by myself, it's definitely really hard."

Over at the YMCA backpacks are filled with anything but books. And instead of learning about water, a group of kids was playing with it.

"We extended the offer to our afterschool families that if their child was in need of full day care during the strike, that we could take them in here and run them as part of our program," said the YMCA's Doug Bishop.

Of the 35 families in the program, 11 took them up on that offer, paying an extra $40 to help the YMCA cover the cost of extra staff. The Y says more families may decide to do that if the strike goes on. "Eleven today. Tomorrow may bring more. We'll see," Bishop said.

While many parents and residents support the strike, others are critical. "Just because you say no to somebody doesn't mean you disrespect them," said Jeff Comstock of Burlington. Comstock doesn't have kids in schools. He says he feels the school board has done a good job balancing the needs of taxpayers with the needs of the schools. He says he'd like to see both sides turn this into a factual debate -- not an emotional one -- and keep spending in check. "There are limits to what I think the district can afford."

Guyette says she understands what the teachers are trying to do, but says she would feel better about a half-day strike instead. "Resolve it as quickly as possible. I mean, I support them, yes, I do, but I also support my kids and their education," she said.

You might think that kids would want a day off school, but actually some parents said their kids were upset that they couldn't go see their friends, since the school year has just started.