Denver Public Schools coaches worry about impact of teacher strike

DENVER -- After 30 years as an educator and coach, Mike Laurita has learned life can be messy and that some decisions aren't black and white.

Laurita was just five years into his career as an educator and wrestling coach and was living paycheck-to-paycheck when Denver Public Schools teachers decided to strike in 1994.

He says he remembers how difficult it was. He walked the picked line with his 4-year-old daughter.

"We couldn't afford a babysitter, so she came with me," Laurita explained.

Laurita is now 3 months away from retirement, but facing a tough decision once again. He is unsure if he will participate in the DPS teacher strike planned to begin Monday.

"And that's what's really tough. No matter what decision I make or how I make it, it will come back to haunt me," Laurita said.

Laurita isn't just an educator; he's also head wrestling coach at Thomas Jefferson High School in southeast Denver.

The team is gearing up for regionals next weekend. However, it's a tournament Laurita won't be able to attend unless he crosses picket lines.

"I'll walk for sure on Monday, and then I don't know. It will be a day-to-day decision for me," he explained.

Laurita says his colleagues who crossed picket lines in 1994 weren't welcomed back to the middle school he was teaching at the next year. It's a scenario he hopes won't play out this time around.

"Our staff here, I think, understands. Our staff at that school in '94 wouldn't have understood that," Laurita said.

He's a coach wrestling with a tough decision, one that extends far beyond the mat.

"We're put so much work into getting these kids good and ready to go to state, and it would pitiful if we couldn't," Laurita said.

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