CPS has consistently rejected CTU requests for those metrics standards for District-run schools, as Lightfoot refuses to waver from school reopenings and pandemic surges again in Black and Brown Chicago neighborhoods.
CHICAGO, Jan. 10, 2021—Passages Charter School will keep students learning remote rather than reopening the school on January 14, after management agreed with the Chicago Teachers Union to adopt state metrics to determine closures — and decided after assessing those metrics to delay bringing students and workers back into the building. The North Side elementary school has a Pre-K program, a large cohort of special education students, and serves a predominantly immigrant student body.
Members are relieved. “Our families have been hit hard by the pandemic, and we’ve been incredibly worried about the possibility of spreading COVID to anyone else in our Passages family,” said educator Mike Scott-Rudnick. “Instead now we have time to work out a reopening plan between our union and management that truly protects our workers, our schoolchildren and everyone in our school community.”
Passages management will now use the same data metrics that the Illinois Department of Public Health uses to assess COVID risk in the state: weekly test positivity; weekly new case rate per 100,000; and two-week trends in case counts for both overall new cases and youth cases. The IDPH ranks the risk of COVID at three levels: minimal, moderate or substantial. Minimal levels show less than 5% positivity, 50 or fewer cases per 100,000, and both overall and youth cases rising by less than 10% over two consecutive weeks.
Remote learning is triggered when numbers rise above the minimum risk levels for zip codes that represent 85% of its school population: 60659, 60660, 60645, and 60626.
As of January 7, all of those zip codes had blown through the trigger for remote learning. As a consequence, students at the school will continue with remote learning until sometime in February at the earliest, giving the CTU and management time to continue discussions on a safe reopening plan. Students at the charter school, like all public schools in Chicago, have been learning remotely since March.
While CPS charter schools are following IDPH guidance on public health metrics, CPS has refused to consider those metrics for more than 500 District-run schools for months, after the District abandoned the 400 case/day trigger for remote learning that the mayor’s hand-picked board of education voted to approve in July. Last week, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s health commissioner, Alison Arwady, reiterated the City’s desire to get under 400 new cases per day and, ideally, fewer than 200 new cases per day — the very numbers to trigger remote learning that CPS has now abandoned.
Chicago’s caseload is currently more than double that rate, at 1,049 cases a day on January 10 — a 20 percent increase over a week ago. More than 70 percent of Chicago’s Black and Brown families have elected not to return their children to school buildings on January 11, even as reports from schools in the last week show that Lightfoot’s promises to implement rigorous safety protocols in every school ring increasingly hollow.
“This is a clear example of yet another CPS charter school operator that isn’t willing to take on the level of risk, liability or recklessness that the District is forcing on our educators, students and families,” said CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates. “Why are these CPS-funded charter schools coming to the conclusion that the only responsible decision is to delay, yet CPS can’t grapple with the same science — and the same deadly risks? Instead, CPS is perversly insisting on marching tens of thousands of workers and students back into buildings, even as we’re literally weeks away from vaccine access — and this pandemic is out of control.”