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We bargained again today with CPS on issues specifically related to clinicians, particularly OT and PT workers, who CPS is seeking to force back into buildings to provide services to students—even though CPS has yet to fully develop a safety plan or consider remote options.

Predictably, we have many concerns which we’ve raised with the Board as we continue to push them to move to remote therapy services. Click on the video below for an update from our bargaining team on this latest lack of planning by CPS, with an update in Spanish from CTU officer Maria Moreno, as we push them to modify their plans and put safety first. And check out our written summary below.

The Union was represented today in bargaining by our officers and deputy general counsel Thad Goodchild, along with rank and file clinicians Dr. Sharon Gunn, Mary Esposito-Usterbowski and Luke Boyd-Small.

CPS’ current plan is, frankly, half-baked, and they lacked answers to key questions in this draft plan. CPS has said they’ll survey parents on what services they want students to opt back into for in-person support, but failed to distinguish between which of those services are clinically appropriate and which weren’t. They failed to address transportation issues adequately, in fact saying that students would be transported by bus to a couple of schools per network, where students would then be dropped off, wait, then come in for services, which would also necessitate a reshuffling of caseloads. This scheme would mean OTs and PTs wouldn’t have their regular caseloads, but would instead be reassigned so they could deliver their services in this new way. Clinicians have spent months working with students and families in their caseloads, and this move by CPS would essentially wipe out those efforts.

CPS also failed to provide any real justification for why students should be required to put their health at risk to ride a bus and come into a building. They also offered no guidance or information on how they’d maintain social distancing, whether students would be wearing masks, how CPS would ensure getting students to and from the toilet safely, or how CPS will ensure care is provided for students with conditions like diabetes or those who need tube feedings. And CPS failed to offer guidance on how to support students who are unable to social distance or stay in a group.

“All of these questions need to be addressed, because as therapists, we treat the whole child, not just one aspect of the child,” said Dr. Gunn. “Kudos to our therapists, who since remote learning began have partnered with parents to empower their creativity to work more effectively with their kids. We can provide this service remotely and get more positive effect than working in isolation in a school building.”

Boyd-Small echoed those concerns. “CPS presented a plan for in-person OT and PT services that is critically flawed and values the lives of clinicians at zero, just as they show no value for the work we’ve previously done and are prepared to do,” he said. “Remote therapy this fall will not be like the emergency conditions we confronted last spring. We’ve worked long and hard all summer to develop new ways to reach our students. Now, CPS is pulling the rug out from under us, telling us we must go in-person into schools to provide all services, at the same time that many of us who worked very hard to build rapport with students and families will have those caseloads taken from us and reassigned, meaning we’d be instead treating students we’ve never met in an environment that is unsafe and unfamiliar to students and ourselves.”

This is NOT the final word on bargaining for clinicians. We made a very strong case to the Board today, and they listened and said they’d get back to us. While we remain concerned, we don’t yet know what the final plan will look like, and will keep members posted re developments.

We definitely need to fight on this issue and related issues tied to remote learning. We believe strongly that students should get appropriate clinical services, and we think it’s highly inappropriate that we’re being forced to provide services in-person that could better be provided remotely. And CPS must provide a safety plan that ensures we’re not endangering our students or ourselves.

Once again, CPS’ poor and ill-conceived planning calls on each and every one of us to show our solidarity and fight for what we know is right. And when we fight, we win.