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For two days, educators at Carnegie Elementary in Woodlawn taught remotely, refusing to enter the building until Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s CPS leadership team met demands for additional safety measures for the South Side school.

Educators at Carnegie Elementary secure a safety agreement after COVID-19 ripped through their school

At the beginning of Thanksgiving week, jonL Bush, a SECA at Carnegie Elementary, started feeling ill and took a COVID-19 test. He tested positive, and on Friday he passed away. While the entire school community grieved and the number of positive cases at the school climbed to nearly two dozen, CTU members at Carnegie took action.

For two days, educators at Carnegie taught remotely, refusing to enter the building until Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s CPS leadership team met demands for additional safety measures for the South Side school. Unfortunately, the mayor’s first instinct was to attack educators for trying to “score political points” and “lobbing bombs from the cheap seats.”

Yet the mayor’s team had to concede that the educators’ demands were entirely reasonable, eventually agreeing to more thorough cleaning, hiring additional janitorial staff, increasing COVID testing (including take-home tests), expanding vaccination outreach to families, and adding air purification and filtration systems that adequately meet size requirements for Carnegie’s classrooms.

“The courage and commitment from our members, support staff, administration and families at Carnegie kept this school community united,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. “Carnegie showed our union and our city what real sacrifice looks like, and that leadership will inspire more schools to stand just as strong for the safety of their students and colleagues.”

On the morning of Dec. 10, in the midst of an overwhelming outpouring of support and solidarity photos from their CTU family across the city, Carnegie educators walked back into their building, stronger together.

“Nothing’s gonna bring him back,” said jonL’s mother Claudette Bush. “But if his passing brings attention, shines a spotlight on a bigger problem, then his death will not have been in vain.”

Previously in the CTU year in review:
Bargaining for a safe return to our schools
New part-time clinician positions for 2021-2022
CTU bargaining units organized at two charter campuses
CPS finally agrees to start paying $25 million in sports funding
Making history in Springfield
Reducing REACH evaluation
We Care program for new educators and clinicians of color
Summer organizing and bringing vaccines to communities


(Carnegie Elementary and CTU officers. Stronger. Together.)

We have updated info at ctulocal1.org so please check the important updates on the campaign for safety in our school communities for the latest on safe return, including our reopening proposal to CPS and Sunday’s all-member tele-town hall.