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How Families In West Virginia Are Dealing With Child Care As Teachers' Strike Continues

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Still no deal at West Virginia's state Capitol over public schoolteachers' pay and benefits, and what that means is no end in sight to a teachers strike that began on February 22.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The teachers are holding out for better health benefits and a 5 percent pay increase after years of no raise at all. The governor and the House of Delegates had agreed to that. The state Senate wants a 4 percent raise instead of 5.

KELLY: With all public schools closed, we wanted to know how kids are spending their days, so we sent NPR producer Art Silverman to Martinsburg. It's in the eastern part of the state.

SHAPIRO: He stopped in at the Galaxy Skateland roller rink and found a surprisingly lively scene for a Monday. Manager Amber Maynard said the rink opened up extra hours for skating and arcade games.

AMBER MAYNARD: Businesswise, it's booming because kids don't have nothing to do. So it's just looking to have an outside source other than their home to get rid of the energy.

SHAPIRO: A couple miles away, the Boys & Girls Club of the Eastern Panhandle was also bustling. Amber Glennon is the club's director of operations. I asked her to describe the scene.

AMBER GLENNON: We're here in the middle of our game room. We've got train sets out, pool tables. And then we have kids up in our gym and our computer lab.

SHAPIRO: And this has been the case for more than a week now, right?

GLENNON: Yes, Sir. This is day eight.

SHAPIRO: You wouldn't ordinarily even be open during the day.

GLENNON: No, Sir. We don't open until 2, and most of our kids don't start arriving until 3.

SHAPIRO: So what kind of accommodations have you had to make to be able to give these kids a place to go during the day?

GLENNON: We've opened our doors earlier. We actually open at 8 a.m. right now, and then we're here until our regular closing time at 7. We've also served meals - extra meals. So our community and our teachers and service personnel and everybody has just been so amazing and kind and donated items so that these meals can be served to the kids and to help offset the cost.

SHAPIRO: Are you just - I mean, you must be at your wit's end. I can only imagine. How does this whole experience feel?

GLENNON: On a level here at the club, I'm just glad that we are here so that the kids can come and they have a place to go. The teachers and service personnel have been so gracious to volunteer. Today we had several come in, and we did math, reading and language arts enrichment with the kids. This afternoon, we're going to do some STEM activities.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. So about how many kids per day have you been getting?

GLENNON: Probably right around 50 or 52 a day.

SHAPIRO: When you walk around town in the last week, has it felt like a different place? Does it feel like this has just changed life in Martinsburg?

GLENNON: I don't think so. I mean, I still see the camaraderie, and I see people standing still behind the teachers. I don't really feel like it's changed a whole lot. I think this has brought more awareness to what their pay scales and their benefits and things like that - I think it has brought that awareness out in the community.

SHAPIRO: How many more days can you keep doing this?

GLENNON: I don't know (laughter).

SHAPIRO: Do you feel like you're stretched beyond the breaking point?

GLENNON: Yeah. I think our staff will be here as long as we're open. We love our kids, and we do this because of them. It does stretch us as an organization. When you sit down and look at your budget for the year, this isn't something you plan for.

SHAPIRO: Are the kids pretty happy and resilient, or do they seem like they're out of their routine and a little bit uncertain?

GLENNON: For the most part, I think kids just by nature are resilient. I know that it - they get so excited when they see their teachers come in that are, you know - that have been here to volunteer or - they get excited because they do want to see them. The teachers want to be back in school, and the kids we want to be there with their teachers.

SHAPIRO: Well, Ms. Glennon, thank you for talking with us and for everything that you're doing for the kids there.

GLENNON: Yes, Sir. Thank you.

SHAPIRO: Amber Glennon is the director of operations at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Eastern Panhandle in Martinsburg, W. Va. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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