A message to rank and file members from CTU Chief of Staff Jen Johnson with safety links and toolkits as COVID surges again in Chicago:
These last two years have been exhausting, but as good as it’s felt to see some glimpses of “normal” return to our lives, COVID-19 is not over. Cases are now at levels not seen since the mid-January omicron surge. We stood up for safety, weathered the mayor’s lock-out, and won additional protections for our school communities when Mayor Lightfoot and her Board of Ed refused to act. While comfort levels have shifted as COVID conditions change, we wanted to remind CTU members about those protections now as we watch COVID levels creep up once again. Please look over the summaries and links below to review some of the rights we have under our safety agreement. They include suggested action steps to keep your school community safer if you have concerns.
Hopefully, if your school experiences new concerns or threats to safety in the coming weeks, these will help you and your colleagues consider your rights and how to stand up. Also, remember to check your school’s quarantine numbers, vax and testing sign-up rates, and learn more about our safety rights on the CTU website: ctulocal1.org/safety. And click HERE to view our full safety agreement with CPS.
CTU members should not have had to fight to get paid phone banking opportunities to help sign up students and families for testing and vaccination, but the effort is paying off. At Dunne STEM, vax rates went from 5.4% of students fully vaccinated in December 2021 to 42.3% now. CTU members did the heavy lifting, calling parents, following up and encouraging families to get their kids vaxed. We are making a real difference and saving students and adults from harm.
As concerns arise, start with your school Safety Committee and don’t hesitate to reach out to CTU staff for help and support. It’s heartbreaking, in facing this crisis, that our Mayor and Board of Education continue to fail to lead and leave it to us to fight for our students and communities, but I’m proud of what CTU members, parents, students and allies have accomplished. Together we are all stronger and safer.
CTU Chief of Staff
Safety Rights Summary
Safety Committees: Members have done critical work in these committees to protect our school communities – and now is the time to reenergize your safety committees. Issues that are not resolved must be reported to the District Safety Committee, which meets weekly but can accelerate concerns for schools with outbreaks: ctulocal1.org/report
Masking: As we continue to move our ULP against CPS for unilaterally making masking optional, masking remains the easiest way to keep all safe. CPS recently emailed again encouraging masking, and has required entire classrooms to mask when three cases or more surface in a class. CPS has plenty of KN95 masks for students and staff, so if your principal tells you the safety committee CANNOT get masks, report this to the District Safety Committee: ctulocal1.org/report
Testing: Weekly in-school testing is more important than ever, and has played a huge role in identifying the uptick in cases in our schools. We know it’s disruptive, but we need to ensure that the COVID testing we fought for and won is being used. If the vendor fails to show up or other testing issues surface that can’t be resolved by the school safety committee, please report issues to the District Safety Committee: ctulocal1.org/report. Remember, staff and families can still sign up for weekly testing on Color: ReadyCheckGo COVID-19 Testing Members and safety committees can report problem with the testing vendor to CPS using this form.
Contact Tracing: We’re hearing again about lack of timely notifications of exposure or contact, and also that contact tracing teams at some schools are being stymied. It’s critical to raise these issues in safety committee meetings and report to the District Safety Committee when issues are unresolved. Please raise tracing concerns at your school safety committee and if issues are unresolved, please report to the District Safety Committee: ctulocal1.org/report
Remember, we won paid teams of contact tracing members at the school level for STUDENT cases (adult cases are still traced centrally, as are student cases at schools without a school-based team). CPS has seating charts and rosters, and they should be ensuring that the contact tracing process is simple and effective. Remember, students and staff who were close contacts and are unvaccinated must quarantine for 5 days, and they must continue to wear masks when they return on days 6-10. Students and staff who were close contacts and are vaccinated may continue to come to school in-person as long as they are asymptomatic. Anyone symptomatic should stay home and test, and all close contacts are encouraged to test 5 days after the last date they were exposed to the positive person. Some additional tools:
- CPS contacts tracing flow chart: CPS defines a close contact as someone who was exposed to a person who tested positive for COVID for 15 minutes or more within 6 feet if the positive person was unmasked and 3 feet if the positive person was masked
- What to do when someone tests positive
- Protocols for families
Testing/Vaccination Outreach Captains: We fought for paid voluntary work to create test/vax captains to help do the outreach to families and coordinate colleagues who are also volunteering to phone bank and assist parents and families with obtaining testing consent and promoting vax opportunities. While not every school has a captain, captains can still enroll and principals and clerks can still sign up additional captains. We know this is especially needed at low vaccination schools on the South and West sides. Phone bank volunteers can still use CPS guidance to obtain phone consent to sign up for testing of students (Guidance for Phone Consent), and your can check the CTU’s short link to look up mobile vaccination opportunities each week: ctulocal1.org/cpsvax
Flipping schools to remote: Again, Cook County is now in medium transmission, so school safety committees are able to vote to flip your whole school to remote if 50% or more of students are in quarantine. We’ve seen at least one school hit 35% in the last week, and rates continue to inch up. If we move back into high transmission rates – a situation we want to prevent by continuing to encourage masking, testing and vaccines – school safety committees would be able to flip your whole school to remote if 40% or more of students are in quarantine. Remember, while CPS is clearly trying to limit principals from flipping classrooms, school admins and safety committees technically still have that authority – so use it!