It's official: members of the Chicago Teachers Union walked off the job Monday morning, and most of the city's teachers are on strike, with no clear end date in sight.
While it remains uncertain as to whether the teachers or the school board will win in this standoff, nearly 400,000 Chicago Public School students will be caught in limbo until contract negotiations are resolved.
As strike talk heated up last week, CPS unveiled their "Children First" contingency plan now in effect at 144 sites across the city: an opt-in program that offers supervised activities for students who sign up from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each weekday. (Read the full plan and instructions on how to sign up on the CPS website.)
The Children First sites will include camp-like activities led by nonunion employees including former teachers, principals, office employees and volunteers, according to WGN, and breakfast and lunch will be served. Students are grouped by age and assigned to specific sites including 60 churches and faith-based centers that offer "safe haven" programs.
Hours have been extended at the YMCA of Chicago, and the Chicago Park District will be offering supplemental programming, like art projects and sports, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on a first-come, first-served basis. Park District programming does not include meals.
The CTA also announced Monday that CPS students will receive free rides on the city's transit system between 5:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. over the course of the strike.
For families not reliant on CPS for weekday supervision, Chicago offers a host of great activities for kids, providing an opportunity for education outside the classroom. Check out some of our favorite options:
Art Classes at Chicago Children's Museum
Most classes are free with admission and vary day by day. Check out Art-a-go-go and Cardboard Junction. <a href="http://www.chicagochildrensmuseum.org/index.php/calendar?display_dates_start=2012-09-11&display_dates_count=7&selected_date=2012-09-11" target="_hplink">Chicago Children's Museum Classes</a> 700 East Grand Avenue, Navy Pier
Shedd Aquarium's Tots On Tuesdays
Got a kindergartner out of school? Good luck! Swing by the Shedd Aquarium on Tuesday for their weekly educational class for toddlers, which includes dress-up (in penguin costumes!) and more included with the price of regular admission. <a href="http://www.sheddaquarium.org/" target="_hplink">Tots On Tuesdays</a> 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr., Shedd Aquarium
The Berghoff Oktoberfest
If the teachers are still striking Wednesday, Oktoberfest at The Berghoff is a great way to spend the day. Admission is free and activities and entertainment are provided from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the John C. Kluczynski Federal Plaza. <a href="http://www.theberghoff.com/oktoberfest/default.aspx" target="_hplink">The Berghoff Oktoberfest</a> Adams & Dearborn, Chicago
Bubbles Academy Songs and Stories
Let your students boogie off some energy AND learn about music with Bubbles Academy. Stop by the Lincoln Park Whole Foods Market Stage at 10 a.m. Wednesday or Thursday for free songs and stories. <a href="http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/lincolnpark" target="_hplink">Whole Foods Lincoln Park</a> 1550 N. Kingsbury Street
Sports Skill Classes at The Little Gym
Just because they aren't in class doesn't mean your kids couldn't use a little P.E. The Little Gym offers classes for kids from preschool age up to 12, and many are eligible for a free trial for first-time visitors. <a href="http://www.thelittlegym.com/ChicagoIL/Pages/default.aspx" target="_hplink">The Little Gym</a> 3216 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago
Free Tutoring at Sylvan Learning Centers
Some Sylvan learning centers across Chicago are offering free tutoring from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. startung Tuesday. Participants should pack a lunch. <a href="http://tutoring.sylvanlearning.com/centers/60619/directions.cfm" target="_hplink">Sylvan Learning Center</a> 740B E. 87th St., Chicago