Visit from AFT President Randi Weingarten comes following the death of two mothers from COVID-19 at Jensen Elementary on the West Side, while Mayor Lightfoot’s CPS team still stalls on safety agreement.

CHICAGO, Sept. 28, 2021 — On Wednesday, September 29, Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers, will visit public schools on Chicago’s South and West sides. During her visit, Weingarten will meet with students, educators, community members and elected officials as part of her “Back to School for All” tour to stress the importance of returning safely to five-day-a-week, in-person instruction.

Weingarten’s visit to Chicago comes on the heels of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s recent admission of deficiencies in her administration’s plan to reopen Chicago’s public schools for in-person learning, and the tragic death of two mothers at Jensen Elementary from COVID-19. Since reopening, Chicago’s students and families have gone without weekly COVID-19 testing and contact tracing — two crucial mitigation tactics — along with adequate COVID-proof ventilation, vaccines and adequately staffed neighborhood public schools.

Those safety shortcomings continue as the Union and Chicago school communities mourn the parents lost to COVID-19 at Jensen, where 11 out of 17 classrooms were in quarantine as of last week.

Weingarten plans to participate in a school walk-in at Englewood STEM High School and will host several roundtable discussions with public school stakeholders. Since August, Weingarten has been crisscrossing the country, visiting 20 states and dozens of cities as part of the AFT’s effort to help schools reopen and stay open full-time with safety and health protocols in place.

Also on the schedule are visits to Drake (2710 South Dearborn, 10-11:30 a.m.) and Beidler (3151 West Walnut, 1:30-3 p.m.) elementary schools, two examples of sustainable community schools (SCS) won in the 2015-2019 contract campaign led by late CTU President Karen Lewis. SCS were created to offer a path forward for the district, and have provided adequate care and support to families during COVID-19, serving as a model for other Chicago public schools.

SCS have also provided full wraparound supports to ensure students’ lives are protected to and from school, and during the school day, and place special attention on mental health, staffing and increased community engagement to determine the needs of the school community.

Weingarten will be joined by CTU President Jesse Sharkey, CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates, CTU Financial Secretary Maria Moreno, CTU Recording Secretary Christel Williams-Hayes, CTU organizer and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery, and other elected officials, school and community representatives during the visit. Weingarten is also expected to have robust conversations with students, parents, and community school advocates during the tour.

WHAT: AFT President Randi Weingarten participates in Englewood STEM High School walk-in and press conference

WHEN: Wednesday, September 29, 2021, at 7:45 a.m. (CST)

Press conference at 7:45 a.m. and walk-in to follow


  • Jesse Sharkey, Chicago Teachers Union President
  • Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
  • Dan Montgomery, President of the Illinois Federation of Teachers
  • Stacy Davis Gates, Chicago Teachers Union Vice President
  • Other union leaders, educators, students and elected officials

WHERE: Englewood STEM High School, 6835 S. Normal, Chicago, IL 60621

NOTE: After the walk-in, Weingarten and CTU/IFT officials will be available for questions, interviews and b-roll opportunities.