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Mom of Minneapolis kindergartner talks impact of teachers strike

One mom says it hasn't been easy bringing her five-year-old son to work. Now, she's enrolling him in the YMCA's "strike care" program.

MINNEAPOLIS — Thursday marked eight days without school for Minneapolis students due to the ongoing teachers strike and parents like Bella Applewhite are feeling the impact.

"He's been with me every day," Applewhite said. "I've been doing DoorDash and he's losing his mind in the car. He has nothing to do."

Just blocks away from the main picket line, the Harold Mezile North Community YMCA offers "strike care." Applewhite stopped by Thursday to enroll her 5-year-old son. In addition to a one-time registration fee, the program costs $12 per day. Strike care is also available at the Blaisdell YMCA for $45 per day.

"He's learning but he's not learning at the pace he would be if he would be at school every day," Applewhite said. "So I don't mind paying for him to be able to learn, to be secure, to be safe, and to have fun with people who really care for him."

Activities include cooking lessons, swimming, gardening in the rooftop greenhouse, making music in the tech center, arts and crafts, and more. Executive Director Deanna Perkins says more students arrive each day of the strike.

"We're looking to add on some literacy because we know that they are spending time away from school," Perkins said.

Thanks to donations, the Y is also able to send kids on field trips a couple of times per week. Thursday, around 45 kids departed from the Y to spend a few hours at Cheap Skate Roller Center in Coon Rapids.

A spokesperson with Minneapolis Parks and Rec says programming has been popular and busy during the strike. The Minnesota Zoo is also seeing a boost, but says that might be due to the seasonal change and not necessarily the strike.

"We do run into families that only need us for a day, two days, or three days out of the week because, if you notice, there's pop-up programs," Perkins said. "There's STEM programs. There's other programs of interest."

Perkins says in addition to the increase of kids during daytime hours, as opposed to after-school time, they're getting more volunteers.

"Everybody's stepping up," she said. "All of the organizations that we work with. That's the big take away about this, right, so it's really about building community."

For Applewhite, the options are welcome during this uncertain time.

"He's been asking me for two years," she said. "'Is the coronavirus over? Is the coronavirus over?' So now he has one more thing to add to his stress level of 'Is my teacher going to be able to take care of her family?'"

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