As CPS pressures parents to return their children to schools in less than a month, students and parents join experts, educators in call for safety, equity and trust in reopening plans.

  • 7:00 a.m. Wed., 12/16: Press Conference — Via Zoom. Reporters, please contact communications@ctulocal1.org for Zoom registration link.

CHICAGO—As CPS works to pressure parents into returning their children to classrooms beginning in less than a month, students, parents, educators and their allies are calling on Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to reverse her position and bargain with the CTU on enforceable safety standards. CPS continues to fail to meet the safety promises it has already made, from hiring in new janitors — barely a quarter have been hired in the last four months despite high unemployment rates — to keeping schools clean and enforcing mask wearing and social distancing. Hundreds of school workers running buildings on skeleton crews have tested positive for COVID, with some workers subsequently infecting family members, even before students return to buildings.

Educators and stakeholders will join our indoor air quality experts on Wednesday to push back. They’ll hold a press conference at 7AM on Wednesday, December 16 via Zoom, to lay out their safety concerns. Those include CPS’ explicit instructions to contractors NOT to test ventilation systems for their ability to reduce virus load in classrooms. Ventilation issues were a focus of an October binding arbitration ruling that workers must be allowed to work remotely until CPS can conclusively show ventilation systems can mitigate virus spread. In an unprecedented defiance of a pillar of labor law, CPS has refused to obey the arbitrator’s ruling and denied the CTU its contractual right to independently inspect building ventilation systems, even as hundreds of school workers are being infected with COVID-19.

The CTU will also challenge the mayor’s hand-picked board on Wednesday at its monthly meeting, and call on the District to shore up enforceable safety standards as the pandemic ravages the nation.

CPS also currently plans to march students into schools starting in mid-January to take ACCESS and other standardized tests — as the pandemic surges. Members of the CTU Bilingual Education Committee are working with stakeholders to petition ISBE to seek a federal waiver on standardized tests, including ACCESS, the language assessment administered to students identified as English Learners under Illinois State Bilingual Education Law. Advocates will testify to ISBE on Wednesday that pushing students in to schools for the tests is unsafe, unfeasible and will invalidate test results when CPS inevitably misses the 95% student participation requirement for the test. They’ll make the same case to CPS, which has insisted on staging the tests in schools in January. CPS COVID cases have already been linked to students coming into schools earlier in the school year for tests.

The Union has been seeking to bargain enforceable demands for safety, equity and trust with CPS for months. CPS has refused, instead docking workers’ pay and threatening to fire staff who exercise their right to work remotely under the arbitrator’s ruling until buildings can be shown to be safe.

The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at www.ctulocal1.org.