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Questions and Answers

Will there still be daily screeners for students? For staff? What about temperature checks?

CPS unilaterally determined that temperature checks are no longer required. Additionally, CPS unilaterally eliminated the requirement to submit answers to the health screener process for both students and staff. Parents are now asked to complete a quarterly COVID-19 Student Certification and Verification Form acknowledging that they will conduct a daily symptom screening before sending their child to school. Although CPS claims that the health screener process still exists, the results of the daily screener are not being tracked or collected by the district, rendering the current process meaningless.

While CTU does not believe that the temperature checks or screener were the most important mitigation layers, they did contribute to safety and without the other layers fully in place, we could not agree and did not agree that CPS remove them. CPS did so on their own. For full bargaining details, see the Health & Safety section on page 1 of the Bargaining Chart at: ctulocal1.org/chart.

What if I fail the health screener? Am I required to use my benefit days? Can the principal refuse to permit this?

CPS is no longer actually requiring anyone to submit screener questions and therefore, no one at CPS is reviewing any screeners. CPS says that employees, who should dutifully review the health screener on their own, and who believe they should not be in school as a result of how they would answer the questions, must take a benefit day if they fail the health screener and are not on a CPS-ordered quarantine. For full bargaining details, see the Health & Safety section on page 1 of the Bargaining Chart at: ctulocal1.org/chart.

Do I need to use Personal sick days or CPS/Public Health Days if I must quarantine due exposure to students or staff?

If you are on a CPS-ordered quarantine, you will be able to telework from home through the quarantine period. CPS is now saying that if you have symptoms, are ill, and are unable to telework, you must use your benefit days.

Your requirement to quarantine is based on your vaccination status and whether you are experiencing possible COVID symptoms. Those who are vaccinated and asymptomatic are not required to quarantine. This remains a subject of ongoing bargaining discussion as CTU does not agree entirely with the policies that CPS rolled out regarding quarantine this year. For full bargaining details, see the second-to-last line of the Bargaining Chart at: ctulocal1.org/chart.

What about teachers/staff who must stay home when their own children are quarantined ? Must we use our own benefit days?

CPS is now saying that if your child is on a CPS-ordered quarantine, you can telework for all duties that can be performed from home for the first two days in order to arrange childcare. After two days, CPS expects you to return to in-person work. If you are unable to return to in-person work after two days while your child is at home, you must use benefit days and /or consider an FMLA for caregiving. This remains a subject of ongoing bargaining discussion as CTU does not agree entirely with the policies that CPS rolled out regarding quarantine this year. For full bargaining details, see the second-to-last line of the Bargaining Chart at: ctulocal1.org/chart.

What if I have exhausted all of my benefit days?

If you have exhausted all banks of benefit days and need sick time off, CPS is saying that you can contact the absence and disability team at cpsloa@cps.edu to request additional sick time. Again, please note that in order to be eligible for additional benefit days, you are required to exhaust both your current and grandfathered sick bank. For full bargaining details, see the second-to-last line of the Bargaining Chart at: ctulocal1.org/chart.

When unvaccinated students in our class are quarantined due to exposure, will we be required to do simultaneous instruction and teach the vaccinated in-person and unvaccinated remotely?

Only students who are on a CPS-ordered quarantine will have access to synchronous instruction for 25 percent of the total instructional minutes for the day. It does not apply to non-COVID related absences.

If a child is not ordered to quarantine by CPS because they are positive or a close contact and they are just regular sick (e.g. cold, flu, etc), their parent or guardian should follow the regular school procedures for securing an excused absence–they are not entitled to simultaneous instruction. We know that this is in some instances impossible to differentiate due to CPS’ lag in communication and notifications.

In the latest counter-proposal from CPS to CTU, CPS outlined a series of flexible options that can be utilized to provide simultaneous instruction. CPS also indicated that there should be one full school day (for teachers to prepare and families to be notified) before simultaneous instruction is required to begin. For full bargaining details, see first line of the Instruction and Schedule section of the Bargaining Chart at: ctulocal1.org/chart.

How can we minimize the exposure of “specials” teachers? Can we negotiate to have block scheduling so all teachers don’t see all students every week?

The CTU proposed language that would limit exposure for teachers who see the entire student body on a weekly basis. The Board’s latest proposal allows for flexibility in scheduling “if doing so does not impact a school’s instructional experience for students”. Raise your concern in the building level safety committee and explore ways to schedule students to ensure safety. For full bargaining details, see Additional Safety Protocols for HS and Elementary section of the Bargaining Chart at: ctulocal1.org/chart.

How will surveillance testing be done? How do we ensure that more students participate so it is meaningful?

CPS has indicated that they will offer testing to 100 percent of students if the citywide transmission rate is above “low”. However, parents have to consent to their students being COVID tested.

The CTU proposed an opt-out system by which all students would participate in COVID testing unless their parents opt them out, but the Board has not agreed to this. As of now, surveillance testing will only apply to students whose parents have affirmatively agreed by submitting a consent form.

CPS should have had a widespread testing program in all schools by day one of the school year, however, now CPS is saying they will have widespread testing in schools by September 15. As of September 8, 2021, CPS said they had COVID testing running in 14 schools.

We think this is highly problematic as other safety layers have been rolled back. This remains a subject of ongoing bargaining. For full bargaining details, see the COVID Testing section of the Bargaining Chart at: ctulocal1.org/chart.

If a student with COVID symptoms is sent home, do they need to have a negative test to return to school?

Per the CPS guidance, COVID Protocols for Families (found on the CPS web site here: https://www.cps.edu/sites/back-to-school/health-safety/safety-best-practices/) , any student with COVID symptoms should get tested and stay home while awaiting results.

How can a full (or oversized) class social distance in a typical CPS classroom?

In many cases, they cannot, which is why we’ve been trying to bargain with CPS over concrete solutions and we have pressed them to be honest. CPS is saying they will abide by three feet of social distance “when possible” which creates no accountability to trying to increase social distance whenever possible.

Classroom dimensions vary greatly between schools and even within many schools. If your class, even if it is within the allowed limits, is too full to maintain three-foot distancing, please bring this issue to your School Safety Committee. Unresolved challenges can also be referred to the District Safety Committee here: https://www.ctulocal1.org/rights/concerns/safety-committees/. This remains a subject of ongoing bargaining. For full bargaining details, see the Social Distancing section of the Bargaining Chart at: ctulocal1.org/chart.

How quickly will staff be notified if someone they were in contact with tests positive? What about parental notification?

Close contact notification should occur within 48 hours of discovery of a positive COVID test by either the CPS reporting form or a credible report to an administrator. If a principal becomes aware of a positive case at a school, they have the authority to “flip to remote” for a period of time while contact tracing is being completed by the Office of Student Health and Wellness.

We are deeply concerned that CPS still cannot manage this process in a timely manner and it remains a subject of bargaining. For full bargaining details, see Contact Tracing section of the Bargaining Chart at: ctulocal1.org/chart.

How do we handle students, especially special education students who may not understand fully, and who refuse to keep masks on?

We are glad that CPS agreed to a universal mask mandate with few exceptions, but we know for some students, it is challenging and, in rare cases, inappropriate to wear a traditional mask. Your Safety Committee should work with your admin to develop procedures to enforce mask compliance among students who do not have a medical exemption.

Counselors and clinicians can play a role in supporting this. We did try to bargain with CPS over the limited exceptions for mask wearing for students and they have refused to collaborate in that regard. For full bargaining details, see the Masking section of the Bargaining Chart at: ctulocal1.org/chart.

How do we know if our school received a COVID position/stipend? What can this money be used for?

CTU has consistently proposed that CPS use the nearly $2 billion in federal COVID funds to staff up our schools to meet our students’ needs. So far, through bargaining, CPS has agreed to staff new PSRP School Assistants in a limited number of schools for the 2021–2022 school year only. CPS has posted these positions already. We don’t think this is enough, but we are glad we fought for these additional PSRP positions.

Once hired, the School Assistants will help with COVID quarantine notifications to staff and families, assist in scheduling and facilitating COVID testing in schools (once it exists) and do other primarily COVID related work. CPS says 31 schools will receive two School Assistant positions, 123 will receive one School Assistant position, and instead of positions, 153 schools with 300-699 students will receive one $2,000 stipend per semester for related work, and 129 schools with less than 300 students will receive one $1,000 stipend per semester for related work.

CPS sent us the list of the schools they believe are eligible and we at CTU used enrollment numbers to verify which schools are on the list. We believe there are a few schools that should be added to the list. You can download the PSRP School Assistants list CPS provided or download our excel version of the PSRP School Assistants list. For full bargaining details, see the last line of the Instruction and Schedule section of the Bargaining Chart at: ctulocal1.org/chart.

Shouldn’t vaccinated staff and students be quarantined if there is a positive case they were in close contact with since there are so many breakthrough infections?

CPS says it is following CDC guidelines on this issue. We have concerns about this approach, especially with the absence of widespread regular COVID testing in our schools, but CPS continues to reject our proposals for a more cautious approach. If you are a vaccinated employee and you don’t feel comfortable reporting in person due to possible exposure, you can utilize a benefit day. For full bargaining details, see the Quarantine section of the Bargaining Chart at: ctulocal1.org/chart.

What do we do if three feet of social distancing seems impossible in the cafeteria and hallways? Are we required to supervise student lunch in our classroom?

CPS has agreed in bargaining proposals that it will utilize different strategies to maintain at least three feet of social distancing “when possible” including utilizing all available space, changing classroom assignments, modifying schedules, and adding additional lunch periods, when doing so will not negatively impact student learning. We want to encourage six feet of social distancing in all areas wherever possible.

We all know that in some schools/classrooms social distancing is nearly impossible to achieve. We think CPS ought to be more honest with parents and families about the conditions in schools with limited space and what that really means for layers of mitigation.

CPS’ latest proposal about strategies to achieve three feet is helpful and we very much encourage Safety Committees to push for reasonable solutions in their specific school contexts. We know some schools are lengthening passing period time, which we think is a good idea, and creating strict rules about walking direction to help keep students moving in hallways.

Some schools have used additional spaces for lunch, added additional periods for lunch, setting up lunch outdoors, and in some instances, which we do not think is ideal or appropriate, CPS is allowing lunch to occur in classrooms. Currently, we do not have any arrangement which requires our members to supervise lunch. We know our SEIU Local 73 union siblings are also concerned about this issue and they are reporting that security guards and SECAs are sometimes being inappropriately pulled from their work duties to supervise lunch.

Safety Committees should continue to press for solutions using appropriate staff and not pulling workers from their assigned duties. In instances where three feet of social distancing is not possible, the matter may be brought to the Building-level Safety Committee and then to the District-level Safety Committee to identify and propose other available strategies to achieve the desired social distancing. For full bargaining details, see the Social Distancing section of the Bargaining Chart at: ctulocal1.org/chart.

What is happening with members seeking religious and medical exemptions from the vaccination requirement? What will happen after October 15?

Currently, CTU members seeking vaccination exemption, should submit an application via CPS online system. CTU is concerned that CPS is not processing applications in a timely manner.

In order to get the first Pfizer dose and be fully vaccinated by October 15, the first dose must be taken by September 10. Logically, CPS should be processing the exemption applications with enough time to still allow someone to meet the deadline. That does not appear to be happening. CTU has reached out to CPS for an update on their processing of exemption applications and we are awaiting a response.

We highly encourage all members to get vaccinated.

As of right now, CPS is only saying that those who do not comply by the deadline will not be able to report to work in-person, but we do not know much more beyond that. CPS has said that they are not seeking to punish members who are in the process of complying with the vaccination deadline by October 15, which makes it seem likely that CPS will have to provide some kind of extension to those in the process of getting vaccinated or waiting for response from their exemption application.

CPS has not so far indicated that there will be any alternative to getting vaccinated to those determined to be ineligible for a religious or medical exemption. For full bargaining details, see the first line of the Vaccination section of the Bargaining Chart at: ctulocal1.org/chart.

How often should air quality be monitored? What is the acceptable CO2 level for classrooms?

School-based safety committees should press for regular air quality testing while rooms are occupied, and members should observe the engineer conducting the air quality assessment. CO2 levels between 600 and 1000 PPM (parts per million) with a floor or building average of 800 PPM or less indicate adequate ventilation. CO2 levels above 1000 indicate inadequate ventilation (See the Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines on indoor air quality for more details.)

Carbon dioxide

Levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), which is a naturally occurring gas in our atmosphere, can build up in a room due to exhalation by people if there’s bad air circulation. Therefore, CO2 levels can serve as a good proxy for the risk of COVID transmission, because elevated levels mean that people are breathing each other’s exhaled air.


Atmospheric CO2 levels: 410 ppm

Standard for elevated-risk CO2 level: Atmospheric level + 700 ppm = 1,110 ppm

Under OSHA standards, CO2 doesn’t become a health hazard in and of itself until 5,000 ppm.

Real-world issues

On August 30, 2021, a classroom at Juarez tested at over 2,400 ppm. This was more than 6 times the atmospheric amount, and more than double the level at which air quality is considered to be poor, and dangerous in terms of transmission risk.

Also note that briefly elevated levels may not be a cause for concern. For example, if someone exhales directly on the CO2 monitor, it will produce a rapid spike in CO2 levels, and those levels should also dissipate quickly. The greatest cause for concern is sustained and elevated levels over the course of several minutes. All CPS building engineers have been issued portable indoor air quality monitors and it is their responsibility to test the air in your classroom upon request. If there’s resistance to performing these tests, report it to your school’s safety committee; and if necessary, elevate the issue to the district-level safety committee.

Note that air filters (including the HEPA filters provided by CPS) will remove virus-carrying droplets without removing CO2. The best way to ventilate a room is with outside air exchange, which will lower CO2, but in spaces where outside air isn’t accessible, including in rooms without windows, additional filtration is recommended by both the CDC and ASHRAE, the group that advises the HVAC industry. Safety committees should also work with building engineers, to ensure that any air filters in the building’s ventilation system meet the standards for MERV-13 or higher.

When testing

  • Make sure to test when people are in the space, not before or after. Elevated CO2 levels can drop very quickly after people leave a room.
  • Make sure that someone from the safety committee is accompanying the building engineer when running these tests, so they can verify the readings.
  • If you have concerns about the hardware at your school, you can purchase a quality CO2 monitor for $129 at co2meter.com

Clinicians are being directed to do therapy and testing in unventilated small spaces? What can CTU do to protect us?

CPS has agreed that unless a student’s services require less than six feet distancing, that clinicians ought to be provided work spaces that allow for at least six feet social distancing. When this is not happening, clinicians should bring these issues to the School Safety Committee. If the Committee is unable to find a solution, then the issue should be escalated to the District Safety Committee. Article 20-1.7 of the CBA still applies. You can also contact your field rep (ctulocal1.org/reps) to file a grievance. For full bargaining details, see the Social Distancing section of the Bargaining Chart at: ctulocal1.org/chart.

If a teacher is quarantined but students are not, how do they teach? What if students are quarantined but not the teacher? Do they teach class remotely from the building?

CPS has rolled back COVID time and reversed their statements that there would be no more telework. CPS is now saying that if a teacher (or PSRP or really any CTU member) is required to quarantine by CPS and is able to work, the teacher (or any other CTU member) will telework and perform duties from home.

If students are in a CPS-ordered quarantine, but the classroom teacher is not (because they are vaccinated and asymptomatic), CPS says the teacher will perform duties remotely still from inside the school building. If some students are quarantined and others are not, the teacher will provide in-person and simultaneous instruction. CTU continues to try to bargain over this and other details of quarantine. For full bargaining details, see the first line of the Instruction and Schedule section and the second-to-last line of the Positive 20-21 section of the Bargaining Chart at: ctulocal1.org/chart.

Will CPS be closing positions after the 20th day despite the pandemic?

This is one of the unknowns for which we continue to ask for clarification at the bargaining table.

What is happening with REACH evaluation this year?

Unfortunately, the Illinois State Board of Education is not continuing to allow pauses on teacher evaluation for the 2021–2022 school year. We anticipate some principals being eager to start REACH observations, though for many it will not be a priority. REACH observations cannot start (per Article 39-2.3B) sooner than the fif5th week of the school year (week of September 27th). All contractual rules still apply, so please refer to the REACH Handbook (on CPS Knowledge Center) and Article 39 of the CTU-CPS contract.

We encourage PPCs and Safety Committees to press principals to exercise reason and grace and not make REACH a driving focus of the rear. Where a new REACH rating would help an educator move from a PDP or remediation or achieve accelerated tenure, it may make sense for a principal to help that educator be successful. Largely, already highly-rated tenured members and untenured members who are clearly capable, should receive support and resources, but we do not think there should be pressure to complete REACH since there are contractual protections in place for default ratings that protect most members.

CTU proposed that evaluation continue to be paused this year, but CPS, per ISBE has rejected that. CPS also made additional proposals about REACH this school year that are not officially agreed to, but that are not horrible. To review those details, see the third line of the Positive 20-21 section of the Bargaining Chart at: ctulocal1.org/chart.

For REACH, what Framework is used for English Language Program Teachers (ELPT)?

Please first review the Q&A above. We do not think REACH should be a great focus of admin or educators as we still adjust and figure out how to make this school year successful for our students.

Members who do not work directly with students typically are evaluated on the Educational Support Specialist Framework. A member, including full-time ELPTs who work with adults or half-time ELPTs (whose other half-time role also works with adults), would use the ESS Framework. A half-time ELPT, who is also a half-time teacher, could use the ESS Framework or the Teacher Framework.

The only Frameworks that exist for REACH are:

  • Teacher
  • Teacher-Librarian
  • School Counselor
  • School Psychologist
  • School Nurse
  • SLP
  • School Social Work
  • Educational Support Specialist

The RLS web site will have pre-loaded a default Framework that aligns with a member’s staffed position title. So if a member’s job title is Teacher, even if they are a half-time ELPT or a full-time ELPT, the REACH Teacher Framework will be loaded in RLS. If a member needs their Framework changed, they should have a conversation with their principal, and use a follow-up email to ensure the principal facilitates CPS changing the Framework in the RLS web site.