CPS contract school refuses to set standards for ventilation, contact tracing, COVID testing, as COVID cases rise among students nationally.
CHICAGO—School administrators at CPS contract school The Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts) waited until the last minute to notify CTU educators they intend to re-open the school to all students and staff on April 26 — and have dragged on negotiating a required safety agreement ahead of reopening,
After an inconclusive bargaining session on April 21, the employer announced that their lawyer would be on vacation and thus unable to meet their legal requirement to come to an agreement before resuming in-person school.
That flagrant indifference to safety has sparked an outcry among ChiArts educators, who want management to meet the standards that the CTU has achieved with both CPS and charter operators covering the vast majority of CTU’s 1,100 charter members.
On Thursday, ChiArts members signed a petition demanding an agreement on safety protocols before reopening the building to students and pledging to teach remotely until an agreement is achieved. That pledge is much like actions that CTU members took while bargaining with CPS over reopening elementary school buildings, forcing Mayor Lightfoot to walk back a series of reopening deadlines and instead negotiate safety standards with district educators. CTU members at Passages Charter School prevented a rushed reopening without a union agreement by conducting a two-day remote work action, including a teach-out and a press conference, winning the right to work from home whenever all students are remote.
“The employer refuses to engage us on safety issues critical to protecting our members and the families we serve,” said teacher Dara Miller, CTU’s Council Chair at ChiArts. “We’ll continue to teach remotely until we’ve landed a sensible agreement with management that truly protects students, families and staff.”
While management reacted to notice of educators’ pledge to continue teaching remotely by now agreeing to bargain again this weekend — for 75 minutes on Saturday — the boss has yet to consent to even minimum safety standards for a safe return to in-person learning. In a breathtaking avoidance of accountability, management is:
- Refusing to agree to CPS metrics for operational pauses;
- Refusing to adopt any cleaning and disinfecting protocols, instead rejecting all language around these issues and claiming that because CPS owns the building, CPS contract school ChiArts cannot control how often and if the building is cleaned;
- Refusing to provide contact tracing for confirmed cases of COVID-19 positive individuals in the school;
- Refusing to pause school operations should the school experience an outbreak and refusing to conduct any surveillance testing of staff or students;
- Refusing to provide assistance to students seeking vaccines;
- Rejecting the CTU’s request that symptomatic individuals or those determined to be in close contact with a COVID-positive person not return to the school building until they complete their required isolation/quarantine period;
- Rejecting other safety proposals by CTU educators that are in place to protect other school communities across the city.
“Our students’ wellbeing is as precious to us as our own, and they do not deserve substandard health conditions when they come to school,” said CTU ChiArts union delegate and veteran teacher Brenda Torres-Wakai. “We’re committed to protecting our students and extended family members, and we’ll fight for their safety and our own if that’s what it takes to land real safety protections.”
ChiArts educators also want management to support policies that improve students’ educational experience. That includes ensuring that students have access to counseling, in-house credit recovery options over the summer, adequate devices and equipment to be used for both remote and in-person learning, and a host of other basic needs.