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With DPS Teacher Strike On The Horizon, Parents Weigh Their Options

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April Laissle
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With the threat of a teacher strike looming, parents of Dayton Public Schools students gathered Tuesday night to come up with a 'Plan B.' DPS district officials say school will start as scheduled on August 15. But, many parents are still worried about how a strike could affect their kids.

In a small meeting room at Grace United Methodist Church in Dayton, about three dozen parents have come to hear the latest about the possible teacher strike, and to brainstorm ideas.

Many parents are weighing their options - they’re trying to decide whether to keep their kids home if teachers do walk off the job.

DPS parent and school board candidate Jocelyn Rhynard urged unity.

“Above all, I want to make sure that we are united as a group. Parents in this room and outside this room will make different decisions about their kids – what they’re going to do with their kids regarding the strike. Some parents have the freedom to make choices about their kids and some parents don’t,” she says.

The teacher’s union filed a 10-day strike notice on Monday, meaning if a deal isn’t reached, teachers could strike as early as August 11. That’s just four days before school starts.

DPS is continuing to assure parents that school will go on - strike or no strike. Officials say they will rely on existing district subs and employ a staffing company to fill classroom gaps.

Lynda Huggins is the parent of three DPS students. She’s also a teacher in the district, and is planning to picket with her union if contract talks break down. She’ll be keeping her kids home from school during the strike - she says she's afraid the school environment will be too chaotic.

“It’s going to be, in my opinion, too much. Kids will be kids, and you leave them to their own devices with a sub, who knows what they’re going to be doing,” she says.

Parent Michelle Hangen, who is also a teacher, is leaving the choice of whether to attend school during a strike up to her daughter, a senior at Stivers High School.

 

She says her daughter is concerned about losing the teachers she already knows well. And Hangen is uncertain the substitutes will be able to create the right learning environment for students.

“I do think that putting in strangers, they may be really good people, but they don’t have that relationship already established with her and her peers, and I think there’s potential for some disrupted learning to happen.”

Many parents at the meeting also expressed concerns over how the ongoing DPS turmoil will affect the community’s image of Dayton as a whole, which they say has already been damaged by district mismanagement and high teacher turnover.

 

Over 100 employees have resigned from DPS this year alone, union officials say.

“We know that our school system is the center of our community. People choose to live in different places because of their schools system," says Huggins. "Who wants to move somewhere and have to pay for their kids to be educated because they can’t retain highly qualified teachers?"

 

The teacher’s union and DPS officials have three more chances to avoid a strike. Their first negotiation session is Thursday, Aug. 3. Two more are scheduled for Aug. 7 and Aug. 9.