COVID quarantines in CPS schools rose by 400 percent over three-day span beginning August 30, as the mayor’s CPS team lags on reporting cases — while rejecting most safety protocols from last school year.
CHICAGO, Sept. 9, 2021 — Safety in Chicago public school communities should be built on robust, layered mitigation: masking, social distancing, testing and contact tracing, vaccinations, and efficient ventilation systems that can pull COVID out of the air and away from students and school staff.
Yet Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her team seem intent on dismantling virtually every safety protocol from last year, including ventilation inspections that the Chicago Teachers Union has been seeking to conduct for months as the Delta variant continues its relentless spread — especially among unvaccinated children. This comes as schools across the city are reporting sweeping safety mitigation failures, from massive overcrowding that thwarts social distancing, to broken sinks and rodent infestations in schools.
“Our school communities need trust, truth, transparency and leadership from the mayor and her team at CPS,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. “Instead, they continue to stonewall educators, parents and the public about safety issues in a pandemic.
“This is dangerous, reckless and wrong.”
Mayor Lightfoot has repeatedly said that schools are safe, but refuses to allow the Union to verify the safety of ventilation systems in schools where parents and rank-and-file members are reporting positive COVID cases. Without transparency, and the ability to test whether ventilation systems are preventing virus spread, there is no way to determine if classrooms and common areas are safe for students and staff.
CPS first claimed the Union’s consultant, Dr. William Mills, needed to pass a background check before the district would allow him to join safety inspections. After the mayor moved to put thousands of students in Uber and Lyft vehicles driven by unvetted drivers to address its transportation failures, the district now says Mills must spell out specific standards he’ll use to evaluate his results, rather allowing him to compare results to national and international standards.
“The mayor also said we’d have a new CEO by the beginning of the school year,” President Sharkey said. “Instead, we have no permanent CEO and no stable leadership in our district.”
CPS also has yet to provide COVID testing, let alone accurate numbers about the extent of COVID cases in schools. Social distancing has been a disaster at overcrowded schools, and school communities continue to confront chronic problems with school cleanliness.
“This is a direct threat to safety,” Sharkey said.
For months, the Union has attempted good faith bargaining regarding safety protocols with CPS to keep students and families safe as Delta spreads. Since students began returning to in-person learning on August 30, school communities have been reporting sweeping mitigation and facilities failures, from dangerous overcrowding at Taft, Curie and Hubbard high schools to broken sinks and rodent infestations at schools like Barton Elementary on the South Side.