Locked out CTU educators, allies to ‘picket’ in car caravan for safe school reopening

Reports of COVID at schools grow, as CPS continues to fail to deliver on promised safety measures and double digit COVID rates rise in Black and Brown Chicago neighborhoods.

  • 9:00 a.m. TODAY, Friday, Jan. 15: Car caravan to end the lock-outs. Assemble at Union Park, Ashland and Warren Blvd. B-roll and interview opportunities.
  • 9:45 a.m.: Socially distanced press availability with locked out CTU members and parents at Union Park. Livestream on CTU Facebook page. Caravan departs Union Park at 10:00 a.m.

CHICAGO—Reports of COVID cases in schools have continued to mount since CPS started forcing a second wave of workers back into unsafe buildings on January 4. Even as the majority of Chicago’s Black and Brown families continue to reject in-person learning out of safety concerns, CPS has continued to lock out CTU teachers and support staff from their students’ virtual classrooms for continuing to teach remotely rather than from unsafe school buildings. Some workers who’ve taken a sick day in the last ten days have been inexplicably locked out by CPS, as well, along with CTU members not scheduled to be forced back into buildings until January 25.

Students and parents want their teachers back — online, teaching their children remotely safely as they have been for months, until CPS bargains with the CTU on a safe reopening plan for school communities. Parents and allies will join locked out CTU educators beginning at 9:00 a.m. TODAY at Union Park, located at Ashland and Warren Blvd., for a car caravan to end the lock-outs. Locked out educators, parents and allies will hold short press conference at Union Park at 9:45 a.m., then hit the road at 10:00 a.m.

The car caravan will end near the home of CPS board vice president Sendhil Revuluri, while supporters are planning actions that include a youth-led protest Friday morning at CPS headquarters. Locked out educators staged a teach-out earlier this week at the home of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s hand-picked board president Miguel del Valle.

CPS has begun docking the pay of educators for exercising their right to a safe workplace, kicking them off of all CPS digital platforms, including email and Google Classroom, and denying children across the city access to their teachers and their education. Parents have complained of children devastated by the loss of their teachers, no substitute teachers for their classes, and the stupidity of forcing workers back into unsafe buildings even when zero children are returning to their classrooms. Some parents and students are staging their own protests of the lock-outs by logging into Google Classroom, and turning off their screens and microphones to oppose CPS’ refusal to let those educators continue to teach.

Since January 4, when Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s hand-picked school board began forcing pre-K and special education teachers back into unsafe buildings, reports of COVID have surfaced in schools across the city, including schools that serve the District’s most medically challenged students. COVID has now been reported since January 4 at special needs schools that include South Side Occupational, Beard, and Vaughn Occupational High School, which was the first school to report a COVID case at the beginning of the pandemic. At Southside Occupational, rank and file members are reporting at least two people — a staff member and a student — who’ve tested positive for COVID. The COVID cases at Beard Elementary, which provides both Pre-k and special needs programs for children with autism and acute medical needs, are especially troubling, with at least 10 workers in COVID quarantine.

The mayor’s dangerous reopening scheme is not working, even as a growing body of science shows that schools can be potent vectors for COVID transmission to teachers and school staff. Health professionals agree. On Thursday, representatives of the Illinois Nurses Association and National Nurses United, the nation’s two largest nurses’ unions, joined CTU school nurses at City Hall to deliver a letter to the mayor urging the continuation of remote learning until school buildings are safe and the pandemic is under control.

A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that schools can be potent sources of COVID transmission. A new study from Montreal has found that it was “children who passed the virus onto adults when schools reopened in the fall, feeding the alarming spread seen in Montreal during the pandemic’s second wave.” A new study from Switzerland shows that the country’s decision to close schools was one of the nation’s most effective measures in reducing COVID spread. And in states that include New York and Texas, data is showing that teachers and staff where school buildings are open have higher COVID infection rates than their surrounding communities.

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.