Barring a last-minute deal, Denver teachers will begin striking on Monday, February 11. As educators demand a better payment system, Denver's first strike in 25 years could create a host of issues for parents and students alike.
Moves are already being made statewide to accommodate the strike. For example, a letter went out notifying parents that daycares will accept more students than they're permitted. We asked Rob Gould, the chief negotiator for the Denver teachers' union, for other tips that could help parents during the strike.
Westword: Should parents send their kids to school?
Rob Gould: That’s an individual decision for every parent. They have to weigh their options and find out what’s happening at their particular school. You should definitely contact the school. Some schools may have more coverage than others. We’re not really sure. But contact your school. My wife and I, we’re doing the same thing, we’re debating whether to send our kids to school. But I think we are going to send them, just knowing that they’ll have something for them. But we’ve heard some scary stories of one certified person and six paraprofessionals for 300 to 400 kids.
What should students do when they’re in school?
They should follow directions. They should do as they would normally and just try to make sure they get along. It’s a tough time. One of the other big things we’re trying to make sure parents know is that if there are students with particular allergies or medications, that the parents make sure they update those things with the school.
What will happen with sports practices and games?
All those things have been canceled as of right now. We’re hoping that DPS has a plan to help out with some of that in terms of rescheduling and such.
Where should parents get continued information about the status of schools?
Definitely check the school's web page. Phone the school. They’re going to have secretaries and paraprofessionals there. You can call each individual school to see what the latest plan is. I’m sure the DPS website will have stuff, too. But my guess is that they’ll funnel people back to individual schools. We do know that Mayor Hancock said they were going to open all of the rec centers. That is an option, too. They’re going to staff those and have those ready to go.
What can students and parents do to foster an agreement between the district and teachers?
Definitely check in with the teachers every day. Check in to see if there’s anything they can do to support and help out. Bring coffee, food or sustenance. That’s what we’re recommending.
How will teachers support themselves while not getting paid?
Hopefully each teacher has put away money to save a little bit. I know that’s tough, because a lot of us live month to month. But we do have a GoFundMe for DCTA [Denver Classroom Teachers Assocation]. And we just got a resolution for how it’s going to be dealt out. But we’ll have full details on how they can access support funds. So if people are a little bit more hard up than others, then we’ll ask them to apply. Some individual schools have also put together accounts for their teachers.
How will picketing be organized?
Each school has a strike captain. My guess is that they’ll start off at the individual schools. We always want to make sure to encourage the teachers to talk to parents on the street when they're dropping their kids off. We’ll probably start off at each individual school and move to a central location.
What is your advice to subs who will be filling in?
Don’t cross the picket line. We all have to make individual choices. I know times are tough for people and it’s tempting to get in for that extra money. But crossing the picket line won’t be helpful, and to get a resolution for this, we want everybody’s help, including people who are contemplating crossing.
I just hope that we don’t have to go this far. I hope that DPS listens to their teachers and we can get to a resolution [tonight]. If things go well [tonight] and we still need additional time, we’re willing to put the time in over the weekend. We just hope it’s a fruitful conversation.
The union and district will negotiate today, February 8, at 5 p.m. In the event of a strike, all Denver preschools will be closed. The union will be operating food banks to assist families affected by the strike. Non-perishable donations can be delivered and families can receive goods from 7 a.m to noon on weekdays at these locations:
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Northwest – Denver Firefighters Local 858, 12 Lakeside Ln.
Northeast - IBEW Local 111: 5965 E 39th Ave.
Southwest – National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 47: 5151 W 1st Ave.
Southeast - Unite Here Local 23: 5303 E Evans Ave., # 302.