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Following his “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!” tweet yesterday, President Donald Trump yesterday outlined a national plan on reopening schools. This echoes comments made by Mayor Lightfoot in May, who is determined to open Chicago’s public schools in September, despite having no actual plan in place to do so.

The mayor has centered an entire public relations campaign around a strict re-opening for the City of Chicago. But the risks inherent in visiting bars, restaurants, gyms and spas shouldn’t take precedence over the sanctity of our school communities. Returning to classes in the fall poses significant challenges to social distancing in overcrowded schools on the Southwest and Southeast sides of the city, as well as some Northwest Side schools that are perennially beyond capacity. CPS claims that the district on a whole is underutilized. We need to further examine what that means, and if necessary, discuss ways to make better use of existing spaces.

Throughout the summer, we will be hosting bi-monthly tele-town halls to share information on our ongoing reopening negotiations and plans with CPS. We will also be providing results of our member-wide survey on the conditions you want us to fight for in district and charter schools in order to safely return to your classrooms.

Our focus remains securing guarantees that our schools will have everything needed to open safely, including deep cleaning for every school and adequate PPE; soap, water and disinfectant for students and workers; adequate staffing of health professionals in all school buildings; regular testing, contact tracing and temperature screenings; appropriate remote learning tools for vulnerable and at-risk students and educators (with protection from termination); special leave for quarantine granted for those exposed to or contracting the virus in an in-person school setting, with no loss of benefit time; and social distancing strategies—including smaller class sizes and adjusted schedules—that protect you, your students and their families.

Fall sports

Last week, CTU officers, counsel and senior staff met with Chicago Public Schools, which informed us told that high school sports conditioning begins July 13. The Illinois High School Association has provided guidance and the district says it will follow the state’s return to play guidelines, which stated:

School districts should work with their local health departments on current restrictions in their area prior to beginning contact. Local school administration determines the permitted activities at their school. Prioritizing the health and safety of all students and staff must remain the focus of each IHSA member school.

As summer conditioning gets underway next week, there are 82 traditional neighborhood high schools and 44 charter schools looking to start practicing this month. CPS plans for fall sports seasons to begin August 10, and intends to have the following safety protocols in place:

  • Guidelines must align with the IHSA and the governor’s Phase Four restrictions.
  • Practices must remain outdoors.
  • Parents must be asked about COVID-19-related symptoms and sign daily waivers, with temperature screening at the start of every practice.
  • Masks must be worn at all times, with proper social distancing.
  • No sharing of water coolers and cups; schools must provide individual water bottles.
  • Small group (10 students) participation only.

Concerns about COVID-19 have led to the strict reconfiguration of both collegiate and professional athletics, and we expect no different at the high school level. We must have testing for both athletes and coaches, and just as all school communities aren’t created equal, neither are all athletic facilities. And in terms of plans for the fall, if the district requires that students be in groups of no more than 10 for outdoor practice and training, then it can’t conceivably put 30+ kids in an indoor classroom together for seven hours at a time at the beginning of the school year.

The issue here is that the district can never live up to its promises because it doesn’t have the ability or operational capacity, and kids cannot always adhere to guidelines. CPS won’t ever blow the whistle on itself, and by the time its realized that this plan cannot work, damage will have been done.

All of this underscores the incoherence of the CPS reopening plans at this stage, and its plan for athletics is no different. Yet it will somehow be all systems go on July 13. We have many questions, and even greater concerns, but we remain in negotiations with CPS pushing for the strongest protocols for safety for you, your students and their families.

To that end, we are asking all CPS coaches—but especially fall coaches—to join us this Thursday, July 9, for a webinar on summer conditioning and fall sports. We will discuss the $5 million in new athletic funding won in our contract, and also seek feedback on what safe sports participation will look like for staff and students.

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Salary Schedule Step Credit for Outside Experience (It’s not too late to apply!)

In February, after much advocacy from the Union and our rank-and-file members, CPS amended Board policy to allow teachers to receive step credit for years of outside teaching experience up to step eight. CPS had communicated that applications must be submitted by July 1 to guarantee that step adjustments would be effective by the beginning of next school year. However, the language of the Board policy provides that for teachers who submit applications after July 1, the effective date of the step adjustment should be the date of their application for the adjustment. (See section K on page 7 of the Board policy.)

This means if you missed the July 1 deadline, it’s not too late!

If the affidavit of outside experience you submitted to CPS when you were hired included verification of all of your years of outside teaching experience, and you are having trouble getting your hands on another affidavit from your old school district(s), you should submit a new step adjustment application to CPS and include a note that you submitted proof of all of your years of outside experience to CPS when you were first hired. Download the CPS step application here.

52-week strike make-up day pay issued July 3

As part of the agreement to settle our strike in October, CPS agreed that five of the strike days would be made up. For 52-week employees, scheduling make-up time proved difficult, but CPS has agreed to issue the strike-day make-up pay to all 52-week employees. After much back-and-forth, strike make-up day pay was issued for 52-week employees in their July 3 paychecks.