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What? A strike? Parents blindsided by looming LAUSD walkout that is closing schools

Sonja Sharp and Andrew J. Campa, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES — Like most parents in the nation’s second-largest school district, Marianne Webster was shocked to learn of the massive strike set to shutter public schools across Los Angeles for three days next week.

She was even more shocked to learn about it from her third grader.

“When I picked him up he said, ‘The teachers are going on strike,’” said the mother of four, whose two eldest children attend 186th Street Elementary School in Gardena, where 70% of students take the bus to campus and 100% get free lunch. “I said, ‘What?!’”

For Los Angeles Unified School District bus drivers, cafeteria workers, teacher assistants and custodians, the three-day strike has been months in the making as they are hold firm in their demand for a 30% pay raise. Yet few outside Local 99 of Service Employees International Union took notice until United Teachers of Los Angeles announced late last week that its members would walk out alongside them.

Days later, most parents were only just finding out.

“What do you mean they’re not going to go to school for three days?” 186th Street Elementary School mom Edith Castillo recalled thinking when she saw the huge union rally in Grand Park on the news Wednesday night.


That question was seemingly repeated thousands of times outside hundreds of schools across Los Angeles this week as parents were first hit with the news — and then traded speculation and rumors. Many said they felt blindsided by the sudden closures. Many more struggled to believe it would actually come to pass.

“I don’t think they’ll really do it,” said Cajuan Banks, 42, as he collected his two young children from Crescent Heights Elementary School in Picfair Village Wednesday afternoon.

But others couldn’t take the chance. As the reality of the strike sank in Friday, working parents raced to secure spots in stopgap programs set up by the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, and the Los Angeles Parks and Recreation Department, or to co-op care with friends and family.

Others scrambled to rearrange their schedules and budget a way to do without the wages they would have earned.


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