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We recently became aware of a mandate by the mayor to line up volunteer CTU staff support for childcare centers in a small number of schools located near hospitals. The goal would be to support the childcare needs of healthcare and hospital staff working to handle the growing number of COVID-19 cases, while also managing health needs of other patients.

CPS has been less than transparent about its fulfillment of the mayor’s plans. The district is not currently promising any COVID-19 testing for volunteers and their families should anyone become ill. They have only promised temperature checks. We need more assurances on member safety.

CPS is also not promising protective gear due to reports from health agencies that suggest the gear leads to a false sense of protection. We are pushing for these measures as well.

CPS is currently offering full eligibility for FMLA, and not counting these days against leaves. So anyone who volunteers will not lose benefit time. We are awaiting assurances on liability protection for volunteers, and guidance on how to protect educators who do not volunteer from having to take on all of the additional work from a colleague who did.

Our union does its best to be helpful and support initiatives that protect our communities and cut the spread of this deadly virus, as we have since the beginning. But we are also concerned about practices, and must protect member safety and rights. We’ve been consulting about the mayor’s plan with the leadership of SEIU Healthcare, a close union ally that represents large numbers of hospital, nursing home and childcare workers in Chicago. We share the broader goal of making sure this initiative is built around hard science, best practices, CDC guidelines and the real needs of workers who are on the frontlines of this crisis.

We need assurances from CPS and the City on several key points if we are to provide maximum protection for any members who may choose to participate in this effort. Those include:

  • Appropriate and free testing meeting or exceeding CDC guidelines must be made available for volunteers, with a commitment to notify the Union about confirmed exposures. We want to flatten the curve—and testing is a critical component of this effort.
  • Guaranteed, necessary protective gear provided for staff—soap, hand sanitizer and any other relevant equipment, including gloves and face masks—should the need arise.
  • Release from other CPS duties for volunteers, and additional paid sick time if a volunteer and/or a family member falls ill.

We’ve not yet received clarification from the City or CPS on meeting these assurances. We’ll keep you posted as we work through the deployment of this plan with the district, including connecting members who are willing to take on this work with sites that require staffing.

Finally, all of us are at risk at this time. We’ve already learned of one school nurse who’s been exposed over the weekend and is now in quarantine, and another member now in quarantine who’s been exposed through a family member. Please keep thinking of these members and their families—and all of our members who’ve been in quarantine over the last two weeks.