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We cannot stress enough the importance of maximizing safety for a successful reopening in the fall. Even with the mitigation strategies and safety protocols we achieved this spring, only 25 percent of our families felt comfortable sending their children back to school buildings — and that was before the Delta Variant upended what we thought we knew about this virus.

Progress at the bargaining table has been slow, and we are seriously concerned about the timeline with members reporting back to work on Aug. 18. But we are not going to compromise on safety. That being said, CPS has moved on two important issues: masking and vaccinations.

As you may have heard, the district will implement a universal mask mandate for all staff, students and school visitors in the fall. This is important, but we still need to agree to systemwide standards for instructional exceptions.

CPS also has begun to move on the need for vaccinations. The district now says its goal is to vaccinate 100 percent of eligible students by October. This is important progress, but we have yet to see the resources necessary to meet that goal. To that end, we have proposed CPS hold 100 school-based vaccine events per week beginning later this month.

The district has agreed to maintain our school-based safety committees. This is how we will enforce our reopening agreement. Please start planning your safety committees now and set your first meeting.

Despite this movement, CPS is still attempting to roll back many of the health and safety protocols agreed to in the winter and spring, including six feet of social distancing where possible and metrics for school-wide and/or classroom shutdown or pause.

Safety has been, and will continue to be, the gold standard for us in bargaining with CPS because we care deeply about our members, our students and the people our students engage with outside of school. We will continue to negotiate with district, but we know our real leverage is in the streets. So tomorrow, we’ll be fanning out across Chicago to talk to parents, students and community members about the safety measures and recovery spending necessary to rebuild trust in CPS.

Please join us tomorrow, and continue to sign our petition demanding that the mayor and her CPS team utilize maximum federal dollars to provide additional staffing and resources that will level the playing field for all schools, and provide much-needed direct support to our students.

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