As Teacher Strike Looms, Communities Mobilize with Childcare and Support

Apr 25, 2018

Tens of thousands of educators are poised for a statewide walk out tomorrow demanding more funding for K–12 schools and better wages for teachers and support staff. Communities are mobilizing to provide day care for the very students those teachers are fighting for. Non-profits, churches and other organizations are taking in kids for little or no charge during what will be the first educator strike in state history. The KNAU news team went out into the community to hear from some of those who’ve offered to care for students, and support teachers, while they go to bat.

Kristi Baty is the co-owner of Summit Gymnastics in Flagstaff. The business will offer childcare at a reduced rate during the teacher walkout beginning Thursday.
Credit Ryan Heinsius

MS: I’m Melissa Sevigny, and I’m reporting here from Lowell Observatory. We’re talking about the child care options for people who are affected by the strike on Thursday. So, I’m speaking with Todd Gonsalez and Kelly Fergueson who are science educators here at Lowell.

Children gather outside the Rotunda Museum during a day camp at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff.
Credit Lowell Observatory

KF: We are offering a day camp starting Thursday and going into Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to help out our parents and our teachers that are going through this walk out. We modeled it after our summer camps which is our LOCKS Camp, Lowell Observatory Camps for Kids. So, it’s going to be the same sort of model but just a little bit more chaotic since it’s just a week advance notice. It is free for anybody who needs this kind of care, so. We’re looking for public school kids, charter school kids, those from Arizona who are affected by this walk out.

TG: So, as most non-profits are, we’re apolitical. But we are very much a community organization, and right now the community has a need. We see it helping on many fronts, not just in science education, but helping with parents who are seeing this as sort of a financial hit to find day care last minute. So, any way we can help. I just wish we could do more than 20 kids, but we are limited in staff and space. You know, that’s the part that breaks my heart a little bit because I wish we could do more, and I think this might be a good point if we could challenge other non-profits or other community organizations to offer free or reduced day care. This is a good time for us to band together and help out the community.

JR: Hello, I’m Justin Regan with Arizona Public Radio. I’m standing here with Pastor Lynn Bartlow at Trinity Heights United Methodist Church in Flagstaff. How’s it going today?

LB: Going very well, thank you.

JR: Why have you chosen to participate in this?

Pastor Lynn Bartlow of the Trinity Heights United Methodist Church Flagstaff will offer childcare at a reduced rate for up to 200 children during the teacher walkout.
Credit Justin Regan

LB: As a church, we’re made up of many different people with different backgrounds. We believe education is important. We believe families are important. We feel living wage is important. So, we understand both sides of the issue: teachers, educators, the education system in itself needing more money and more care for our kids, but also recognizing that logistically it’s difficult for working parents to provide for their kids in the case of a strike. So, we are positioned here with our building and with our volunteers in the church to be able to fill that gap a bit, at least. It’s not without its problems. It’s not without its cost. But we fill like we can fill the gap for a good number of people and want to step in as we can.

The front door of Summit Gymnastics in Flagstaff with signs supporting the Red for Ed movement to boost teacher and support staff salaries as well as school funding.
Credit Ryan Heinsius

RH: Hi, this is Ryan Heinsius. I’m here at Summit Gymnastics in Flagstaff, one of the organizations offering child care to parents during the teacher walk-out. Joining me is co-owner Kristi Baty. Tell me, why did you want to get involved and offer this service?

KB: We feel that by supporting our teachers and acknowledging the work that they do, and hopefully having the state of Arizona beginning to recognize and value who they are as people and what they need as families that we can help in any way possible.

RH: And if this strike, the walk-out lasts for several days or even into weeks, are you going to continue to offer child care, this service, if it keeps going?

KB: Absolutely. It’s a need in Flagstaff, and we’ll do our best to meet it, and I know that there are other places that also have this in mind. We’re trying to take care of our kids and make sure they have a safe and healthy place to go.