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The courage of the Vaughn Occupational High School community and delegate Emily Hecht is pushing Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Pubic Schools to act now. Widespread testimonials and anxiety from educators, students and parents across Chicago are pushing the mayor and CPS to act now. We feel the same anxiety. Our union has been in constant contact with Gov. J.B. Pritzker and regular contact with CPS, and we understand the difficulty in providing for nearly 20,000 homeless students in the event of a school closing. We understand the strain in providing meals in a district where more than half of the children qualify for free or reduced priced lunches. We are educators. We see it all.

Today, we are calling on the mayor and CPS to follow the leadership of the governor and school districts across the country and immediately close all traditional public, charter and contract schools in the city of Chicago. Since the COVID-19 (coronavirus) occurrence at Vaughn, we have seen increasing concern over the spread of the virus as this global crisis has landed in one of our own school communities. Our only hope to minimizing harm from this pandemic and stem the infection rate is to shut down our schools as many other school leaders already have.

We must, however, have an infrastructure in place to support our school communities. The State of Illinois has declared a state of emergency. Cook County has declared a state of emergency. Chicago’s mayor needs to do the same immediately, which would provide the resources needed to fund meals on wheels, electronic distance learning devices, sick day extensions and other common good demands to support students, families and workers. Our students and their families must be safe. We need a full and responsible expansion of our social safety net, and we stand ready and willing to work with CPS and the city to help deliver any and all resources.

Please continue to check our website for updates on the virus, and take a few minutes to send a letter to the mayor, CPS CEO and members of the Chicago Board of Education requesting that they immediately close Chicago’s public schools.