Defying a court order, most of the District's 6,000 school teachers went on strike yesterday, but officials kept schools open with a makeshift staff of regular teachers, substitutes, administrators and parents.
In general, it was a day of confusion for thousands of District schoolchildren, many of whom wandered around their schools, played games, talked, shouted and generally carried on. Unsupervised students were in and out of schools throughout the day. Only in rare instances were classes held normally.
There seemed to be no immediate prospect of a negotiated settlement to the strike, and the federal mediator conducting the negotiations said he would not schedule more talks until the end of the week at the earliest.
Vincent E. Reed, superintendent of schools, said the city's public schools would remain open today. He said more personnel, including administrators and substitute teachers, would be available to help teach classes.
Reed said that yesterday's confusion in the schools would not be repeated today and that parents should be confident that their children will be supervised in classes. Noting the small number of teachers who walked picket lines yesterday, Reed said he expected many teachers who struck yesterday to return today.
"Our figures show that 35 to 40 percent of teachers showed up today," Reed said yesterday -- a figure disputed by union officials. "That means 65 percent of teachers did not show up. But you had nowhere near that amount of teachers on picket lines. That means a lot of teachers stayed away for a lot of reasons... I think some people wanted to wait and see, and there was some intimidation."
William Simons, president of the Washington Teachers Union, told about 2,500 teachers at a rally yesterday afternoon that the strike was 85 percent effective.
But Simons said the picket lines needed to be strengthened. Only a handful of pickets were outside most schools.
"Some people are taking this as a vacation," he said. "We are not about that. I wish you would call those people and tell them that we need them on the picket line."
Reed said last night that city attorneys would go to court this morning to seek contempt citations against union officials for alleged violations of a 10-day restraining order issued Monday night by D.C. Superior Court Judge Gladys Kessler.
In a 1972 strike -- which lasted two weeks -- the union was found guilty of violating a temporary restraining order prohibiting a strike and was fined $50,000.
In granting the order, Kessler said the strike would do "irreparable harm" to the school system. She said teachers had signed an affidavit when they were hired agreeing not to strike.
Despite the restraining order. union officials advised teachers to continue plans for the strike, which was called Sunday by the union's executive board. School system officials said yesterday they were attempting to identify union officials who were walking picket lines so they could be named in a contempt citation.
At yesterday's rally Simons told teachers he will call off the strike if the school board agrees to three demands:
Reinstatement of the teachers' fromer contract, which expired in January 1978, and has been extended four times by the board. The last extension ended Feb. 14.
Removal from the negotiating table of board proposals to lengthen the school day and the school year.
Board agreement to a union proposal for an agency shop, in which teachers who do not belong to the union would have to pay a fee equivalent of union dues.
The union took out a full-page advertisement in The Washington Star yesterday listing some of its contract proposals and accusing the board of "seeking to degrade teachers by removing fundamental rights from the union contract."
Carol Schwartz, board vice president, said the board is not considering meeting the union's demands.
"It's tough," she said. "I'm sorry teachers at the bargaining table have to resort to astrike instead of negotiating... If we agreed to their demands, what would be the purpose of negotiating? Negotiations are supposed to be a give and take. There is no compromise in what the union is asking."
Life at the city's 200 public schools was in astate of limbo yesterday -- not quite closed but not quite open.
Most school events were canceled along with classes, including most parent-teacher meetings scheduled for last night at which report cards were to be handed out.
In classroom 208 on the seeond floor of Woodrow Wilson High School, in Northwest Washington, students sat waiting for a teacher to lead their U.S. government class.
"No teacher, no substitute," said Vlatko Andanov, 18, a 12th grader, "I don't have any teachers and as far as I'm concerned it's just a waste of time."
At Anacostia High School all classrooms were locked and only the gym and lounge were left open.
"If classrooms were left open it would be very, very difficult to maintain security in the school," said Principal Russell Lombardi.
Cheryl Wilson, 16, a 10th grader at Anacostia, said that when she arrived at school yesterday at 8:30 a.m. she was told to "go outside and stand."
"Then they told us to come inside and go to the gym," she said. "After we were in the gym for a few minutes most of the students left and started roaming the halls and that's what we've been doing since then."
Not all schools were disrupted despite the strike. At he Hearst School in Northwest Washington, all teachers were present and classes were reported operating normally.
"We are committed to our students," said Susan Wheelock, a teacher. "Striking just doesn't seem to be the way to solve the problem. I don't think we (the teachers at Hearst) agree with either the school board or the union."
Gwen Hussie, a math instructor at Anacostia, said she could not afford to strike. "I basically don't believe in strikes," she said. "But in addition to that, I simply cannot afford to walk out on strike. I went to work during the 1972 teachers' strike and I wasn't about to lose my job because of a strike. This is my first year at this school and again I'm not going to jeopardize my job to strike."
At Stoddert Elmentary School, the principal sent letters home with students yesterday advising parents to give the children addresses of baby sitters or relatives who can look after them in case the school is closed during the day today.
Despite the crisis atmosphere around the schools, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry maintained a lack of involvement with the strike. However, his office was kept informed of developments.
"Even though I don't have any legal role I understnad the union's position," Barry told a meeting of senior citizens in the Cardozo area of the city. "I understand the board's position.... The young people need to be in school every day."
After the meeting Barry said he had plans for dealing with the strike but declined to disclose what he intends to do.
There were no reports of violence by strikers yesterday, Superintendent Reed and the police reported.