With COVID-19 surging and CPS refusing to answer parents’ questions, Union launches tracker to help identify schools with positive cases.
CHICAGO, Oct. 28, 2020—The Chicago Teachers Union today is launching its citywide, school COVID-19 tracker to aid members in pursuing safety for their colleagues, students and students’ families. The Union’s new COVID tracker website will collect reports on COVID cases at CPS schools, submitted by members of its highest governing body, the House of Delegates. The tracker will map out reports of positive COVID-19 cases in schools geographically, and continue to highlight data that shows that many of the schools with positive COVID-19 cases are in Black and Brown neighborhoods hardest hit by illness and death, and where positivity continues to surge.
As Chicago Public Schools and Mayor Lori Lightfoot insist that more than 25,000 medically vulnerable students, pre-kindergarten students and educators return to unsafe school buildings in less than two weeks, COVID-19 positivity rates are soaring in Black and Latinx communities on the South and West Sides, including Lawndale, Brighton Park, Gage Park, Austin and Englewood. Nearly 100 district-run CPS campuses have reported positive COVID-19 cases since the school year began in September with limited staffing, and prior to any students reporting to buildings.
“The incidents we’re tracking, and will be able to track even further, are happening without students in school buildings, and while CPS continues to defy the law and risk the lives of our clerks,” CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said. “These are predominantly Black and Latinx women, and they deserve better from a district to which they’ve given decades of their lives and service.”
CPS and the mayor continue to ignore an arbitrator’s ruling to stop forcing school clerks, clerk assistants and technology coordinators to work in unsafe school buildings, even when their work can be performed remotely, as it was from March to June. Instead, CPS has begun docking and disciplining school clerks who obey the ruling. The Union also has learned of at least three schools with reported cases of clerks testing positive for COVID-19.
In recent days, more than a dozen additional schools have reported positive COVID-19 cases among staff. This list includes Austin, Juarez and Farragut high schools, and the following elementary schools: Smyser, Drummond, Columbia Explorers, Greeley, Harvard, Hefferan, DeDiego, Clay, Christopher, Hammond, Hedges, Cuffe, Pulaski and McAuliffe. Mayor Lightfoot’s push to reopen schools comes as Chicago’s seven-day rolling average of positive COVID-19 cases tops 800, which is up 34 percent from the previous week and twice the level CPS said in July would warrant remote learning.
Questions have largely gone unanswered by the mayor and CPS, who have forced workers back into unsafe school buildings where proper COVID-19 safety protocol is not being enforced.
On Tuesday, parents, students and educators in hard-hit neighborhoods held a press conference to address CPS’ reopening plan in the face of vastly higher rates in their zip codes and communities. North and South Lawndale, Austin, Humboldt Park and Hermosa are all above 20 percent COVID-19 positivity. New City, South Lawndale, Gage Park and McKinley Park are above 22 percent positivity.
Latinx Chicagoans continue to shoulder the disproportionate burden of positive cases, and Black residents continue to bear the disproportionate burden of death from the virus. Together, Black and Latinx students make up roughly 90 percent of CPS students, and reopening buildings will only exacerbate the harm already hitting their families and communities.
“How are we even talking about reopening schools when the governor has put restrictions back in place, and top doctors in both the city and the state have told us to basically cancel the holiday season to save lives?” Davis Gates said. “If the district isn’t going to bargain with us, at least provide transparency and up-to-date information that people can use to protect themselves.”
“Our fight is about saving lives,” Davis Gates added. “These Black and Brown communities where people are getting sick and dying are home to the same Black and Brown children and families we serve, so it is a moral imperative that we do everything we can to protect them.”