As we all grapple with the impacts of the current climate catastrophe, here is a quick update about where we are on ensuring that we keep our classrooms and school buildings safe and thriving.

Yesterday, Mayor Johnson issued his plan for the city’s Extreme Heat Watch and highlighted the need for CPS to partner and collaborate with the unions to implement solutions.

As part of this collaboration, we urge all members to work with their union delegates, safety committees and PPCs to meet with their schools’ leadership regarding the extreme heat issues impacting your classrooms and school buildings. Principals have been instructed to meet with the union Safety Committees and work with employees on improving the school’s safety plans.

Today, we met with the District-Level Heat Advisory Committee to address concerns. Member reports of issues that have come to CTU Field Reps and other staff have been shared and in most cases have received swift responses and follow-up from the district, including AC unit repairs, water deliveries, and “cooling buses” mobilized to schools with power outages. CPS is collecting reports through the Student Safety Center, triaging problems, and reporting them to CTU, SEIU and city leaders.

CPS confirmed that there are currently 50 large mobile AC units in the warehouse and that they have purchased 84 more. They also have 175 window units in the warehouse to replace any that break down, and they have two contractors on standby with additional units and labor if needed.

The early start of the school year means more exposure to hot weather and extreme climate conditions that are becoming more common every year. Today, we also contacted CPS to request that we begin bargaining about next year’s school calendar and the safety measures needed to best protect students, staff and school communities from extreme weather.

Once again, here are some toplines of the Emergency Action Plan that all union educators should be aware of:

  • Ensuring that staff and students remain sufficiently hydrated.
  • Working with the building engineers to ensure that all water fountains are in working order.
  • Providing water on school buses in the morning and in the afternoon.
  • Permitting students to bring full water bottles to school and providing them with opportunities to refill them.
  • Encouraging students to wear light cotton clothes and allowing them to wear shorts to school.
  • Drawing shades in rooms to keep sunlight out.
  • Turning off overhead lights, computers and appliances when not required for instruction.
  • Moving classes from rooms exposed to sunlight to auditoriums, interior or lower-level rooms.
  • Keeping air circulating by opening windows and doors and by using fans.
  • Monitoring students taking particular medications to ensure proper hydration.
  • Limiting outdoor recess activities (e.g., running) to short durations or only in the morning.
  • Holding recess in shaded outdoor classroom areas, where possible.

Please contact your field representative if you have questions about engaging in the fight forward for environmentally sound schools.

If you have any questions about engaging in the fight forward for environmentally sound schools, please contact your field representative.

In solidarity,
Chicago Teachers Union