Oakland rec centers provide safe space for students during teacher strike

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Day one of the Oakland teachers' strike left some parents scrambling to find a place to care for their kids while teachers walked the picket line.

At Oakland's Redwood Heights Recreation Center, parent volunteer Pam Genio-Bates was trying help frazzled mom Mireya Montes fill out the paperwork to leave her 11-year-old son Nehemiah in their care, while she went to work.

First Montes considered taking him to school, but then she saw teachers on the picket line.

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"I went to school to drop him and I didn't feel right leaving him, not because he wasn't safe but because I thought I wasn't supporting them by bringing him to school," she said.

The teachers instead recommended that she take him to the Rec Center, which was gearing up Thursday to handle an influx of kids with no place else to go.

Genio-Bates say they were expecting "a little bit of chaos but a lot of fun. We basically just wanted to create a safe space for kids to come to."

Organizer Sarah Henry says they've planned a full day for the kids.

Han martial arts, which is in Montclair, is going to be coming out to lead a class. Musicians are coming out to teach music classes. We've put together a curriculum based on the requests and response of teachers.

The Rec Center can handle 60 students in grade three and up. Up to 75 younger kids could hang out at the nearby First Covenant Church. Support for the teachers was universal among parents and students that we talked to. But, believe it or not, some students actually wanted to be in school. Sana Miller is one of them.

"I'm not taking it like a break. I'm taking it like we're fighting for justice for our teachers," she said.

Another Oakland institution was offering a change of pace for students who were out of school. The Grand Lake Theater was offering one dollar showings of a couple of movies.

Sixth-grader Lola Faulkner-Webb, her mom and three of her friends took advantage. Black Panther was the other offering. Lola's mom Chandra Faulkner is hoping the strike doesn't last long.

"We've got a lot of juggling that we're doing. We're taking advantage of things like this and maybe a museum day," she said.

Student Ingrid Christensen considered this day a mixed blessing.

"It's fun for me that I get to go watch a move, but it's a bad thing because the teachers aren't getting paid and it's not fair" she said.

Take a look at the latest stories and videos about the Oakland teacher strike here.
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