For Immediate Release | GEM: Grassroots Education Movement | CONTACT: Jianan Shi, 617-838-1420, jianan@ilraiseyourhand.org (courtesy repost on behalf of GEM groups)

Over weekend, CPS announced twelve more schools with COVID cases, bringing total of schools with skeleton crews and COVID cases to over 60 in last month alone, as COVID rates rise on Northwest and Southwest Sides.

  • 7:00 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27: Press conference via Zoom. Reporters: pre-register via the link in your email, or email communications@ctulocal1.org for the press registration link.

CHICAGO—Parents and educators alike from Chicago neighborhoods with double digit COVID-19 positivity rates have a flood of unanswered questions and concerns about plans by the mayor and CPS to start returning students and educators to classrooms as soon as November. CPS and the Mayor have yet to answer those critical safety questions, ranging from how CPS is addressing sweeping building deficiencies in ventilation and HVAC systems to clear contact tracing and testing protocols at schools.

Parents and educators will raise those concerns again at a virtual press conference organized by the Grassroots Education Movement with support from the Chicago Teachers Union at 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday, October 27. Reporters, please register for the press conference at the link in their email.

Recent COVID-19 positivity rates in Chicago zip codes, including zip codes 60623, 60629, 60632 and 60639—the zip code in which appointed Board of Education president Miguel del Valle lives—have skyrocketed. Parents speaking on Tuesday also hail from many of these same communities with rising COVID-19 positivity rates:

  • 22.3%, 60623, Little Village
  • 27.5%, 60629, West Lawn, Marquette
  • 27.9%, 60632, Brighton Park, Archer Park
  • 23.0%, 60639, Belmont-Cragin, Hermosa, Hanson Park

While testing sites are lacking in many of the neighborhoods located in these zip codes, parents are being asked to send their children to schools that lack fully thought out plans, ventilation systems adequate to mitigate COVID-19 spread, or guaranteed safety protocols.

CPS announced plans earlier this month to return its most medically vulnerable special needs students and pre-kindergarten students to unsafe school buildings, even as the pandemic is spiking in Chicago and around the country. Chicago neighborhoods with high concentrations of such students are also experiencing positivity rates of 15% to 27%—far higher than the citywide positivity rate of 7.1% and rising. That overall city-wide positivity rate is itself up city-wide by over 30 percent versus last week.

In July, the mayor’s hand-picked Board of Education voted to move to remote learning when the positivity rate was above 400 cases/day, or 200/day but with rising rates of community spread. As of October 26, Chicago’s average daily caseload was 703/day and rising—75 percent higher than the baseline that the Board set in July.

Parents and teachers have a mountain of questions about what a return to school buildings will look like, while CPS has said nothing to answer questions or address parents’ concerns. Those questions include information about CPS’ plan to upgrade building ventilation systems, which by CPS’ own admission are overwhelmingly inadequate to prevent COVID transmission. Parents also have flagged CPS’ failure to deploy plans for contact tracing and rapid testing, even as hundreds of CPS workers have tested positive for COVID since the school year began.

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.