After eight days back in schools, CTU rank and file report new COVID cases at Vaughn and South Side Occupational, sweeping safety concerns — and lock-outs of members for taking sick days.

  • 7A TODAY, Thurs., 1/14: Press conference with CPS parents via Zoom. Reporters, please register at this link.
  • 4:00 p.m., Press conference with CTU nurses, allied health professionals: Nurses will deliver a letter signed by over 150 CPS health professionals to the mayor, 121 N. LaSalle

CHICAGO—CPS has a ‘plan’ for reopening — and it’s not working, even as a growing body of science shows that schools can be potent vectors for COVID transmission to teachers and school staff. Educators, students and families need safety and solutions, all in desperately short supply from CPS.

Parents and nurses will voice their concerns at two separate actions today. Parents will hold a virtual press conference via Zoom at 7:00 a.m on Thursday to talk about the deficiencies in CPS’ reopening scheme. And at 4:00 p.m., CPS nurses will be joined by fellow nurses from area hospitals to talk about the serious health risks to students and staff under CPS’ deficient reopening ‘plan’ — and deliver a letter signed by 150 CPS health professionals calling on Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to delay reopening — or needlessly risk lives. They’ll gather at City Hall at 121 N. LaSalle for a socially distanced press conference, then deliver the letter to Lightfoot’s 5th floor office, if they’re allowed in the building.

A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that schools can be potent sources of COVID transmission. A new study from Montreal has found that it was “children who passed the virus onto adults when schools reopened in the fall, feeding the alarming spread seen in Montreal during the pandemic’s second wave.” A new study from Switzerland shows that the country’s decision to close schools was one of the nation’s most effective measures in reducing COVID spread. And in states that include New York and Texas, data is showing that teachers and staff where school buildings are open have higher COVID infection rates than their surrounding communities.

CPS has ignored this data, and failed to deliver on promised safety protocols in schools. Some snapshots of new COVID cases, lock-outs and ongoing safety issues in schools reported in the last 24 hours are included below:

Vaughn Occupational High School, which serves medically vulnerable special needs students — and was the first school to report a COVID case at the beginning of the pandemic — is reporting a COVID case. On January 11, a student at Otis tested positive for COVID, and exposed staff are being told to quarantine for 14 days — until January 25, when CPS is planning to force all elementary teachers and support staff back into buildings. Southside Occipational, which also serves acutely vulnerable special needs students, rank and file members are reporting at least two people — a staff member and a student — have tested positive for COVID

CPS has locked out one Funston PE teacher from Google classroom, CPS email and all other CPS accounts, because they are refusing to work in an unsafe building. Another PE teacher who is also continuing to teach remotely rather than returning is expected to be locked out this week, as well. Funston lost a student to gun violence this summer and a beloved teacher to Covid in early October. By denying these students access to their teachers, CPS is intensifying the trauma they’ve already experienced this year.

Staff at Clissold are reporting sweeping failures in bathroom cleaning during the day, including no sanitizing between bathroom uses, shortages of wipes and other cleaning supplies, no cleaning protocols, and no ability for educators to include cleaning supplies in their supply list for students who are returning. The cleaning deficiencies are in direct contradiction to promises CPS made to parents in their reopening FAQ.

At Hertzl, staff are reporting that multiple classrooms do not have portable HEPA filters as CPS promised, and one teacher was told they could not get one since the classroom windows open at least two inches. Her question: “They want us to have windows open in the middle of January in Chicago?” A staff member has also reported that the water coming out of at least two bathrooms is brown and black, meaning students can’t wash their hands with clean water.

An update from Talcott: Some of our information yesterday was incorrect. According to a member, art and music teachers have been granted accommodations and are continuing to teach remotely, but three educators were locked out of their Google classrooms because each took a sick day, as our contract allows. We regret the error.

Reporters, please register for the 7:00 a.m press conference at this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_VbWqK-1qRVGevTTvTYzY-w

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.