CTU to launch independent COVID tracker as CPS fails to publicly disclose over 20 schools running with skeleton crews that have seen COVID-19 cases this fall.

  • 7:00 a.m. Friday, Oct. 16: Press conference via Zoom. Reporters can pre-register via the link in their email or by emailing communications@ctulocal1.org. 

CHICAGO, Oct. 15, 2020—COVID-19 is raging in Chicago, yet the Chicago Teachers Union has learned that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot plans to force the district’s youngest and most vulnerable students back into classrooms this November—in buildings an arbitrator has ruled are unsafe.

The mayor’s excuse for pushing early learners and special education students back into schools is driven by CPS claims that these students are not being served well by remote learning. But CPS has rejected every Union proposal to improve remote learning for all students, or to improve services for the district’s most vulnerable special needs children. And CPS had been failing special education students for years before the onset of the pandemic.

Rank and file CTU educators and officers will hold a press conference via Zoom at 7:00 a.m. Friday, October 16, to push back against the mayor’s dangerous strategy. The CTU will also announce the launch of an independent COVID-19 tracker designed to ID schools that have seen COVID cases—information that CPS continues to fail to report to either the Union or the public.

In a horrifying failure by CPS to guarantee and enforce safety protocols at school buildings, 25 schools that are currently running with skeleton crews have now seen COVID-19 cases since the fall quarter began. CTU members have filed hundreds of safety complaints with the Union, and on October 2, an arbitrator ruled against CPS, finding that clerks must be allowed to work remotely because buildings are unsafe.

On Thursday, the State of Illinois reported its highest daily COVID rate ever: over 4,000 new cases. COVID-19 is spiking in Chicago, as well, with an average of 442 cases being reported in the city per day — a 32 percent increase over last week.

Rates for Latinx Chicago residents are topping 20 percent, and rates for Black residents, who’ve borne the brunt of COVID-19 deaths, are now close to 9 percent. Positivity rates are near 10 percent for children who are 17 years old and younger. Black and Brown working class neighborhoods across the City—the very neighborhoods where CPS students live—are seeing double digit positivity rates.

Yet Lightfoot and CPS are planning to announce shortly that special education students—children who are among the school district’s most medically vulnerable students—will be learning in-person in November, along with the District’s littlest learners. That move defies the science and puts thousands of students, family members and educators at risk from the deadly pandemic.

The mayor’s move to in-person learning also defies the standards that CPS itself set this summer,  when the district said that the city should be showing fewer than 400 new cases daily based on a seven-day rolling average, or fewer than 200 new cases daily if those numbers come with with concerning epidemiological factors like rapid increase of cases and inadequate hospital capacity.

Almost 30 Chicago zip code areas that house large numbers of Black and Brown residents are seeing double digit COVID-19 positivity rates. For example, Roseland’s positivity rate is 13 percent, South Chicago and the East Side are seeing 14 percent positivity rates, North and South Lawndale are recording positivity rates of 15 percent, and Ashburn is recording a positivity rate of 26 percent.

Reporters and news outlets must pre-register for Friday’s 7:00 a.m. press conference. See the link in email of this release, or email communications@ctulocal1.org.

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.