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These Families Support JCPS Teachers, But Say Coping During 'Sickouts' Is Tough

Alisa Muata and her grandchildren at Partridge Point Apartments
Alisa Muata and her grandchildren at Partridge Point Apartments

As teacher protests continue in Frankfort, some families of Jefferson County Public School students say they are struggling to deal with their kids not being in school every day.

JCPS was closed again Wednesday due to large numbers of teachers calling in sick — the fifth time in about two weeks.

Alisa Muata has three grandchildren in JCPS. She said when recent sickouts have closed schools, she’s had to look after them while her daughter works. Muata said she can spend up to $30 a day to feed her grandchildren when they are out of school.

She said she's grateful to be able to supplement the cost with the JCPS Bus Stop Cafe, a mobile unit that serves free meals to kids under 18 years of age during teacher sickouts.

“This school cafe bus — it’s nice to have. I can grab them some lunch, because the past couple of days we’ve been having the shut down, it’s been costing a lot of money to feed the kids,” Muata said.

But despite the inconvenience, Muata said she supports the teachers.

“My thoughts are why don’t they just give the teachers what they need so that the children could get back to school,” she said. 

Teachers have gone to Frankfort during the current legislative session to protest several education-related bills, including measures to create a scholarship tax credit to support nonprofits that help send eligible students to private schools, and a bill to reorganize the makeup of the board of trustees that manages teacher pensions.

Another measure, Senate Bill 250, would expand the powers of the JCPS Superintendent to have the final say in choosing principals for schools. It passed both chambers and now heads to Gov. Matt Bevin.

Bevin has been critical of teacher protests, saying they’re motivated by “personal interest” and their acts hurt students, families and businesses.

The sickouts have affected nine out of 10 of Sandy Lathery’s grandchildren. She said the school closures have inconvenienced her family, requiring her to stop her own studies in order to watch the kids. Though the closures have caused troubles for them, Lathery said the teachers deserve support.

“I want the teachers to get what they need. They deserve it. They are our future, our children, are our future,” Lathery said. “But I wish there was something else, some kind of different way that we can to work this out.”

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.