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MailTribune.com
  • School's Out

    Community organizations provide activities for students shut out of classrooms by the Medford teachers' strike
  • To the relief of many working parents with children, a handful of community organizations are opening their doors to students who are shut out of Medford schools by a teachers' strike.
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  • To the relief of many working parents with children, a handful of community organizations are opening their doors to students who are shut out of Medford schools by a teachers' strike.
    The Rogue Valley Family YMCA is operating on "strike schedule," said YMCA Executive Director Brad Russell, and Medford parent Maria Berduceo was happy to hear it.
    "It's so nice what the Y is doing," Berduceo said, picking up her two children from the YMCA on a rainy evening Thursday.
    Berduceo's fourth- and fifth-grade children attend Kennedy Elementary, which, like the rest of the Medford School District, was closed to students until Tuesday while the administration hires and trains substitute teachers to replace those on strike if a settlement isn't reached. The district and union are scheduled to hold another round of negotiations on Saturday.
    When classes resume, the YMCA will offer half-day programs to complement the schools' modified schedules. (To see the district's schedule of classes during the strike, go to www.mailtribune.com/medfordstrike.)
    Preregistration is required for YMCA programs. Today and Monday's full-day programs cost $25 for families that are not enrolled in the YMCA's after-school program and $13 for the half-day program. The "camp-like" programs run from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
    Berduceo said her children will be back at the YMCA today and Monday, at least.
    Russell described Thursday's turnout of about 30 Medford school students as "pretty mellow," as the YMCA is prepared to take on 150 kids during strike days.
    "It's hard to know the enrollment, because we've never experienced a school strike. ... There just hasn't been this type of experience to understand the demand from parents," he said.
    Russell said calls Thursday from parents interested in enrolling their children for the YMCA programs poured in, and a larger group is expected today.
    Jefferson Elementary third-grader Remy Rodriguez attended the YMCA program Tuesday, as did a handful of his friends, he said.
    "I would rather be in school, but here is funner," he said.
    When asked about the teachers' strike, Remy said, "That means that the teachers are going to hold signs ... because they want more money."
    After-school YMCA supervisor Bethany Pitts said the organization has had to improvise in order to accommodate the school kids, but the program and YMCA members are managing.
    "I think our main struggle is space," she said. "We will make it work, but it's a little bit of flying by the seat of your pants."
    At the Medford Parks and Recreation Department's Santo Community Center, about 14 students attended the first of three days of camps for Medford students ages 5 to 14.
    Andrea Torrey, recreation supervisor for youth programming, said she expects closer to 30 kids today, which would bring the Santo camp to capacity.
    "I think a lot of parents were staying home with their kids today," she said. "It's an emotional experience for them ... one of the kids got upset and thought their teacher was going to be fired."
    At the Santo Community Center, kids experience a typical camp day that includes games, music, art and sports activities, Torrey said.
    "As the recreation department, one of our goals is just to fulfill a need in the community and we're happy to be able to help so many working parents during the strike," she said.
    The Santo camp runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Monday and a food ration costs $20 a day. Parents can register online at www.playmedford.com or by calling 541-774-2400.
    Torrey said the community center currently has no plan to offer a camp program when school resumes with half-day classes on Tuesday.
    The department's Recreation Supervisor Rich Rosenthal didn't rule out the possibility of holding camp when the district goes to half days, but he reiterated that nothing has been worked out.
    "We're doing what we can," he said. "I am really proud of our staff being able to pull something together so quickly ... it's a lot of behind-the-scenes work."
    America's Best Kids also offers day camps, in lieu of its typical Afterschool Adventure Academy. Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., said Ashley Preston, an ABK customer service manager.
    About 20 children are already registered, she said, and there is room for 60.
    On days schools are closed, and any other day the district is affected by the strike, tutors will be available, computer labs open and enrichment activities will be offered, including gymnastics, karate and dance, she said.
    The cost is $6 per hour for ABK members and $7 per hour for nonmembers. Parents can register their kids online at www.abkfun.com or by calling 541-245-0432.
    Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-776-4471 or swheeler@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swhlr.
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