Portland-Area Businesses, Nonprofits Expand Child Care Options Amid Portland Teacher’s Strike

Owners say they are in it for the long haul as over 40,000 students are left stranded, though some report they are still below capacity.

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“When we got wind about a month ago that a strike was probably going to happen, we started planning,” says Wolf, co-founder of children’s outdoor education camp PDX Outdoor Explorers, who prefers to go by his first name only. “Our format for strike days is essentially the same as our summertime format. We do our pickups at 7:30. The kids check-in, and in the summer we ran until 4:30. But we realized doing our after-school programs that a lot of families need that extra time, so we’re running straight through until six o’clock every evening.”

Approximately 3,500 educators in Oregon’s largest school district went on strike Wednesday, leaving 43,000 students without a place to learn or eat lunch, and many parents scrambling for child care options. On its website, the Portland Teachers Association recommended parents plan ahead, contact their employers and work with other neighborhood families to create pods for child care The Oregonian and KGW have also released lists of businesses offering a list of child care and meal options in the metropolitan area.

As of Thursday, just 15 students had enrolled in PDX Outdoor Explorers, but Wolf expects that number to grow. He also says while the camp’s current capacity is 40 students, he has enough educators in his network to enroll as many as 100 students if necessary.

SCRAP Creative Reuse center in Portland — a craft store that sells donated supplies and also offers classes and workshops in arts and crafts for all ages — has planned three all-day art camps during the strike, with the first taking place Friday and two more happening next week. As of Thursday, no one had enrolled in the Friday camp, but next week’s slots are completely full.  

“This is kind of our first run at it,” Brown says. “We’re also trying to put them in between events that we already have. We have regularly-occurring events and birthday parties and all sorts of other things that were already on the schedule that we also want to work to accommodate and keep flowing as well.”

Brown says SCRAP will continue to offer child care programming as long as the strike continues. Brown says the store can take fewer than 10 students due to its size, but that she and other staff members were working on ways of expanding its capacity. Currently, enrollment in the day camp is $75 per day.

Melanie Marconi, founder & CEO VIDA Coworking says her company’s shared coworking space did beta testing of its school program throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which prepared her company to offer child care programming during the strike. “We actually had kids onsite doing online learning with a teacher and extracurricular activities. We basically just set it up in the same way that we did that program.” VIDA will offer child care options to all its members Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at its Beaverton location. Parents pay an additional $50 per day for child care, or $175 for all four days. Marconi says childcare options will be available in Beaverton, and not the company’s Portland location, due to the building’s size.