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Children With Special Needs Will Have Limited Options During Teachers' Strike

CHICAGO (CBS) -- School buildings will still be open for students even with classes canceled on Thursday for an imminent teachers' strike, but not every child can go.

As CBS 2's Jim Williams reported Wednesday, roughly 50,000 CPS students have special needs – including some students at James B. McPherson Elementary School, at 4728 N. Wolcott Ave. in the Ravenswood neighborhood.

The question is what provisions will be made for those children.

Like all parents of CPS students, Rachel Herrera received a recorded message from schools Chief Executive Officer Janice Jackson.

Part one was reassuring: "School buildings will be open for students who need a safe place to stay during the day and three meals."

But then came some bad news that directly affects Herrera's 8-year-old son, Martin:

"If your child has medical needs or is in need of special education or nursing support - please be aware that the staff who regularly provides those services to your child will not be available during a work stoppage."

Martin Herrera has special needs.

"I'm thinking a child with special needs won't have a safe haven," Herrera said. "And it's not like that. They were overlooked again."

Herrera says her son needs special attention and care that won't be available at his school Thursday, or other sites that will be open to students such as a Park District field house, or a public library.

"If anybody needs more help, it's them, because it's not like a typical child," Herrera said.

We asked CPS what they're doing for special needs students. A spokesman directed us to their website, which does not mention provisions for such children.

Fortunately, because Herrera and her husband have different work schedules, they'll be able to keep Martin and older sister Violet at home.

"Not everybody will take your child," Herrera sad. "A special needs child? There's no way."

Herrera told us she's speaking for parents of other special needs kids who aren't as fortunate.

"I want to be their voice, because if anybody, somebody has to speak up for them," Herrera said. "And if it takes me to it, I'm going to do it."

The Herrera family tells us until teachers are back in the classroom, they will switch to their summer schedule.

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