DENVER (CBS4) – Helena Oertel skipped school Monday, but she says she’s not in trouble. The second grader doesn’t know much about the ongoing teacher strike in Denver, but she does know she has a substitute teacher.

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“My parents said that it would be supportive of the teachers if I didn’t go to school,” said Oertel.

Helena’s parents weren’t sure how much learning would happen this week, so grandma came to the rescue.

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“My grandma was math teacher, and she came out to teach me,” said Helena. “We do math and reading and more reading! And more math!”

Before she became grandma, Maria Oertel was a teacher for 29 years. When news broke of a strike, she came out of retirement.

Maria Oertel (credit: CBS)

“I booked a ticket this time, for the third time, anticipating a teacher strike. It’s a win-win for me because I get to spend time with the granddaughters,” said Oertel.

Helena and her grandmother spent the morning at one of Denver’s public libraries. During the strike, all 26 library branch locations will open early at 10 a.m. for students like Helena.

“We want to be that space for kids if they have nowhere else to go,” said Nicanor Diaz, DPL Northwest Services Manager

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Diaz didn’t have many students at the Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Branch Library Monday morning. He says all branches are prepared if they come. According to the City of Denver, passive and active programming will be available at all locations. Libraries and recreation centers will also have snacks for students.

“We have some board games that are set up. We can also do story time if we get a large group of kids that come over. There are computers available for kids to use, too,” said Diaz.

RELATED: Denver Teachers Strike Begins

Diaz reminds parents that Denver Public Libraries are public spaces. They can’t 100 percent guarantee children’s safety like a daycare or school could. However, they have brought in extra staff to care for students and provide them with enriching opportunities.

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All 30 Denver recreation centers will also open early at 8:30 a.m. during the strike. Students ages 5-18 have free access to all recreation centers with their MY Denver Card.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Denver says they will host programs in the event that schools close.

RELATED: Some Parents Ready To Help Cover Costs If Teachers Strike

Tori Mason


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