While Mayor admits COVID numbers going in wrong direction, CPS rejects vaccinating students/families or strengthening safety as CPS pushes to reopen high schools in new surge.
- 7 a.m. Tuesday, April 13: Press conference with CTU educators, CTU officers on safety strategies, challenges, needs. Reporters, watch your email for a registration link.
CHICAGO—As CTU high school members seek to land an agreement to safely reopen high schools, elementary school educators are flagging safety needs and sharing strategies to press the District to provide necessary safety protocols to protect staff and students.
Those issues are critical as CPS continues to plow forward with plans to reopen high schools, even as COVID surges again in what could be a third wave of infection. Educators will join Chicago Teachers Union officers and senior staff at a press conference at 7 a.m. Tuesday, April 13, via Zoom to talk about needs, challenges and successful strategies to tamp down COVID in their schools, as well as provide an update on the status of bargaining to reopen high schools.
CPS has dragged for weeks in notifying some school communities of COVID cases in their midst — completely defeating the purpose of symptom checks and contact tracing to keep COVID from spreading in schools. It takes CPS on average 5.2 days between ID’ing a COVID case in elementary schools and actually notifying school communities. Many educators have complained that they’ve never received formal notification from CPS of COVID cases at their schools, even when they’ve been able to determine on their own that they were directly exposed to an infected individual and should quarantine. To date, the CTU has identified 1,357 COVID cases at schools — over 16 percent higher than CPS numbers.
At the same time, vaccine inequity continues to plague Chicago’s Black and Brown residents, with only one in five Black residents and one in four Latinx residents receiving a first dose, compared to one in three white Chicagoans, according to the Tribune. Yet the Mayor’s school executives have rejected the Union’s proposal to use four high school-based staff vaccination sites to get shots to students and families, who hail from precisely the neighborhoods struggling to access vaccinations.
The CTU is pressing CPS to reverse course and instead facilitate shots for students and families. The Union is also calling on CPS to address the need for accommodations to continue to work remotely — where most students remain — for educators with health risks, medically vulnerable family members or acute child care challenges. The CTU is also seeking high school schedules that minimize virus transmission, and the ability to work remotely on Wednesdays, when students are scheduled to remain remote, to minimize the risk of contact in buildings.
For already understaffed schools, quarantines can create staff issues. At the same time, CPS has only opened an additional 71 permanent positions for new janitors, after promising 400 additional janitors last August. The District has also hired in barely a third of promised contact tracers, even as COVID is increasing rapidly among high school aged students regionally, making contact tracing even more critical as COVID numbers continue to climb relentlessly. Promised deep cleaning has failed to happen in schools across the city, where cleanliness issues remain a serious concern.