Overcrowding, lack of testing, AC breakdowns, other mitigation failures will drive needless infections and preventable harm, while Lightfoot drags on landing safety agreements with SEIU, CTU.
- 7:00 a.m. Thursday, September 2: Press conference at with CTU, SEIU Local 73 rank and file, leadership, Barton Elementary, 7650 S. Wolcott Ave., Chicago, Illinois 60620
CHICAGO — Reports of safety failures at public schools have been pouring in from across the city since students started returning on Monday, even as Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s CPS team continues to drag on bargaining enforceable safety agreements with both the CTU and SEIU Local 73.
Rank and file members of both unions will join their officers at a press conference at 7:00 a.m. on Thursday, September 2 at Barton Elementary, located at 7650 S. Wolcott, to discuss challenges and next steps, including escalating actions if necessary.
Safety in the age of COVID is contingent on ensuring that every mitigation layer works in sync in schools to protect students, educators, staff and families. But one or more of those mitigations — social distancing, masking, testing, vaccines, working ventilation and more — have failed at schools across the city. Overcrowding, lack of testing, AC breakdowns, and other mitigation failures will drive needless infections and preventable harm, while Lightfoot continues to allow her CPS team to drag on landing safety agreements with the CTU and Local 73.
But social distancing has failed at schools from Taft to Phillips, with kids crammed together elbow to elbow as they change classes, even during lunch periods.
COVID testing is critical, yet CPS has yet to roll out testing in schools, and District officials have reversed their promise to test all students and staff every week, now saying they’ll test in only 50 schools — less than 10% of district-run schools. The mayor’s CPS team has yet to release that list or even agree to focus on schools in neighborhoods with high transmission rates, even though testing was supposed to start ‘mid-week’ this week.
The current COVID surge has been called a ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’ — yet CPS continues to reject rolling out a comprehensive vaccination program for school communities and their families. Instead, the district is offering periodic two-hour vaccine slots at limited locations through a difficult-to-navigate registration system.
Instead, the mayor’s CPS team continues to fail to remedy issues that range from filthy air filters and poor ventilation to no working air conditioning — even though some school days have topped 90 degrees. At the same time, both the CTU and SEIU Local 73 have spent months at the bargaining table, while CPS dithers on agreeing to even the bulk of the safety protections they accepted last spring when schools first reopened and about 25% of students returned.
School communities began the week with over 300 already in quarantine from COVID, amid reports of new cases daily among workers and students.
Rank and file workers want the mayor’s CPS team to invest some of the $2 billion that the disrict has received in federal COVID relief funds on addressing persistent inequities in Chicago’s public schools. But Lightfoot has refused even to fast-track the hiring of at least one nurse for every school, even though CPS must meet that commitment by the end of the CTU contract — and has the funds to hire those workers now. Instead, 180 schools have no full-time nurse this fall, even as COVID continues to disproportionately hammer Chicago’s Black and Brown communities, whose students make up 90% of CPS schoolchildren.