Educators and students’ families want the same things. We want to keep our loved ones safe. We want science-based policies to get the virus under control. We want to improve students’ remote learning opportunities. We want to safely reopen school buildings. But we are not going to agree to an experimental and incomplete plan which those facing the risks have had no voice in shaping.
We, the parents, students and educators of Chicago, are ready, willing and able to engage in honest, transparent, and collaborative efforts to come to the safest possible plan for the eventual reopening of schools. In addition to good faith bargaining with unionized school staff, there must also be an authentic process involving parents, caregivers, and families to develop and implement any plan for returning to school buildings.
We believe it is critical that the mayor and CPS Board of Education bargain agreements to:
- Improve remote learning – Students deserve changes to deliver the best education possible while we must use remote education to keep our school communities safe until the virus is under control.
- Adjust remote learning schedules to have less live screen time.
- Allow more experiential, asynchronous learning.
- Provide more materials and resources for use at home.
- Build in more time for educators to collaborate with colleagues and with parents/caregivers.
- Reduce unnecessary exposures – Respect the binding arbitration decision. Keep communities safe and allow remote work for all tasks that can be feasibly done remotely until safe return is truly possible.
- Make our schools safe – Implement strenuous, high quality safety measures in school buildings before beginning any version of in-person student learning, including:
- Regular, proactive COVID-19 testing plan for all students and staff.
- A contact tracing plan which includes transparent reporting of cases, protects privacy rights, and helps stop COVID spread.
- A plan for closing classrooms and schools when outbreaks of the COVID-19 virus occur.
- A transparent and comprehensive reporting of school building air quality and ventilation conditions and what steps must be taken to ensure maximum safety including facility upgrades and PPE.
- Increase staffing – Hire more educators to ensure safety. Provide the ability to social distance by keeping class sizes small. Meet students’ needs, including additional nurses, social workers and other clinicians, counselors, teacher assistants, case managers, and Special Education and bilingual educators.
- Respect our diverse needs – Accommodate the reasonable desire for some families and staff to continue to work and learn remotely, even once conditions for a maximally safe return to in-person school is agreed upon. Establish in-person learning and work plans which allow families and educators to make safety decisions without coercion; there should be no threats of loss of pay or access to school enrollment.
- Don’t game the numbers – Establish rigorous and science-driven criteria based on community-level COVID-19 positivity and case rates to determine when community spread will allow a safe reopening of school buildings, rather than misleading aggregate citywide data.