More than 10 percent of CPS schools report COVID cases in last ten days, as mayor remains insistent on reopening schools despite sweeping safety gaps in buildings.

  • 7:00 a.m. TODAY, Wed., Jan. 20: press conference with CTU clinicians urging CPS to suspend dangerous reopening plan. Via Zoom. Reporters, register at this link.
  • 9:00 a.m. press conference: Local, state, county elected officials. Corkery Elementary, 2510 S Kildare Ave, Chicago. Interviews and b-roll in-person only. Livestream on CTU Facebook page.
  • Teach-outs after 9:00 a.m. press conference through a.m. lunch period: Corkery, Whittier Elementary, 1900 W 23rd St.; Gary Elementary, 3740 W 31st St. B-roll opportunity only;educators are teaching.

CHICAGO—Clinicians across CPS — from social workers to speech language therapists — are raising the alarm about extensive safety issues in Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s school reopening plan. Hundreds have signed a letter urging school officials to hold off on forcing more than 10,000 educators back into school buildings on January 25 — the same day teachers are eligible to begin receiving the COVID vaccine.

Clinicians will lay out their concerns at a 7:00 a.m. press conference TODAY, Wednesday, January 19 via Zoom.

At 9:00 a.m. TODAY, elected officials from Chicago’s Southwest Side will hold a press conference at Corkery Elementary at 2510 S. Kildare to call on Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to put her school reopening plan on pause and allow locked out educators to teach.

Both groups want CPS to bargain to agreement with the CTU on an enforceable plan that will allow educators and students to return to school buildings safely.

CPS is continuing to lock out educators across the City, including at Corkery, for exercising their right to a safe workplace by continuing to teach remotely. Yet most of the City’s Black and Brown families have chosen to keep their children learning remotely amidst mounting safety concerns over CPS’ unsafe reopening scheme. CPS’ response has been to undercut learning for those very students who’ve stayed remote, by locking out their teachers from virtual classrooms that in some cases have no substitute teacher — or a substitute who themselves is teaching remotely.

The CTU has received reports of COVID cases in more than 50 CPS schools in the wake of the school district’s move to start forcing a second wave of workers back into unsafe buildings two weeks ago — a number the Union believes undercounts the scope of COVID in schools. Teachers and staff who have returned continue to report a host of safety issues in their buildings, from no heat and shortages of PPE and cleaning supplies to inadequate — or no — portable HEPA filters for their classrooms.

As new and much more infectious variants of COVID spread across the planet, nations that include the United Kingdom, Germany, Ireland, Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands are closing schools. The UK variant has now been identified in Chicago — yet CPS continues to forge ahead with reopening thousands more classrooms, even as COVID cases in schools are surfacing daily.

New research is showing that schools can play a significant role in spreading the virus to school staff, families and communities. A Montreal study found that a deadly second wave of COVID this fall was directly linked to reopening schools. A Swiss study shows that the country’s decision to close schools was one of the nation’s most effective measures in reducing COVID spread. And data from New York and Texas shows that teachers and staff where school buildings are open have higher COVID infection rates than their surrounding communities. That’s a particular concern in Chicago, where Black and Brown communities continue to bear the disproportionate burden of death and disease from COVID — and where positivity rates remain perniciously high, with roughly one in eight members in many communities of color testing positive for COVID.

CPS continues to stall in releasing the number of students who’ve returned to in-person learning, even as many educators report teaching to empty classrooms — but now masked and concerned about inadequate ventilation and other safety failures.

Reporters can register for Wednesday’s 7:00 a.m. press conference at this link:
https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_m91Bk_ibSNSYsUsiKOF7Bw

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 www.ctulocal1.org.