Schools are largest source of COVID exposure in state, with numbers in suburban Cook close to 20% of cases, even as Lightfoot and CPS insist on reopening schools in less than three weeks.

  • 5:00 p.m. Thurs., Dec. 17 — Candlelight vigil: Cather Elementary School, 2908 W. Washington, Chicago. B-roll/interview opportunities in English and Spanish. Event will also be livestreamed via CTU Facebook page.

CHICAGO—As the pandemic continues to take precious lives from Chicago’s school communities, CTU members and supporters will gather on Thursday to remember those we’ve lost in 2020 — including students, rank and file and family members.

Rather than mourning, participants will celebrate in remembrance of these lost lives in an unprecedented year, as school communities organize to return to buildings only after CPS and the CTU have collaboratively bargained terms of return that provide safety, equity and trust. The virtual and in-person vigil will last from 5-6:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 17 at Cather Elementary, located at 2908 W. Washington on Chicago’s West Side.

Besides the socially distanced on-site vigil, the event will welcome brief virtual testimonials from members, as well as a slideshow of those who’ve passed during the program. The vigil will celebrate life, and commit to ensuring that the memory of our friends, family and loved ones will spur us to action, guided by the common good values they held dear.

Schools are the largest single identified potential source of COVID-19 infection in the state, according to the Illinois’ Department of Public Health. In suburban Cook County — IDPH COVID Region 10 — schools make up almost 20 percent of the projected source of COVID infection. Chicago counts its numbers differently, even as more than 350,000 students in over 600 public and charter schools have been learning remotely. Hundreds of workers in more than 160 CPS buildings running on skeleton crews have been infected by COVID since September, even before students return.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s hand-picked board of education is seeking to force educators and students back into buildings starting on January 4. That move comes as CPS has admitted to the CTU in bargaining that it has never tested its ventilation systems, many of which are generations old, for their ability to prevent spread of the virus.

While the data on schools as sites of COVID infection risk has been thin, a growing body of evidence — including research in the United States — shows children and schools can be significant sites of infection and spread. The CDC updated its guidance this fall, calling schools a “potential source of COVID-19 outbreaks, due to the number of individuals intermingling in close proximity for extended periods of time.” According to U.S. News and World Report, growing data on coronavirus cases in U.S. schools suggests in-person classes contribute to the virus’ spread. CPS has instead stuck with incomplete school data compiled by Brown University economist Emily Oster, who has admitted her data set is far from complete and demographically skewed — and calls use of her dataset to justify the safety of schools “bananas“.

The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at