• 10:30 a.m., Thursday, July 16: press conference via Zoom on reopening schools.To pre-register, email communications@ctulocal1.org.
  • Wednesday, July 22: Car caravan, press conference/protest, monthly Board of Education meeting. Details TBA.

No plan exists to guarantee safety for students, staff — and plan that focuses only on mitigating harm will be risky. Safety must be top priority for students, families and educators, while CTU report lays out path to safely educating students in era of COVID-19.

CHICAGO—As school districts around the nation grapple with safely educating students this fall, the Chicago Teachers Union is calling on schools to open remotely this September as the pandemic surges and infection rates and deaths again grow—including in Chicago.

“We stand for a safe and equitable reopening of the schools, but today COVID-19 cases are soaring instead of dissipating,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey. “There is simply no way to guarantee safety for in-school learning during an out-of-control pandemic—and that means we must revert to remote learning until the spread of this virus is contained.”

The Union released a report today—Same Storm, Different Boats: The Safe and Equitable Conditions For Reopening CPS in 2020-21—that lays out the path to safely educating students during the global pandemic, and the dire consequences of getting it wrong. Neither charter operators nor CPS have released ‘guidance’ on protocols for educating students this fall, or under what conditions, from in-class teaching as Trump education secretary Betsy DeVos has demanded to remote learning for over 350,000 public school students.

The Trump administration’s push to fully reopen schools is widely seen as an effort to shore up Trump’s reelection prospects. Chicago’s mayor has also repeatedly cited her hope to reopen schools to in-person learning this fall. But in-person learning also places a tremendous burden on Black and Brown communities that are already being hammered disproportionately by deaths and the risk of severe chronic illness caused by COVID-19.

So Chicago’s public educators have stepped into the breach. The CTU report notes that while remote learning is a poor substitute for in-person education, the essential features of in-person learning are impossible under the terms of strict social distancing—the only way to short circuit the virus’ spread. And school executives have failed to guarantee strategies for social distancing, masks, other PPE, testing, rigorous facilities cleaning and other critical protocols that are essential if schools are to move to in-person learning. Both the school district and charter operators have also failed to come up with concrete strategies to protect at-risk educators and students, even as the Union asked again for guarantees for at-risk children and adults in a bargaining session with CPS late Tuesday afternoon.

“The mayor and school executives for both charters and CPS must begin to see parents, students, educators and other stakeholders as partners whose lives are valued—while the mayor’s ‘mitigation’ approach guarantees that lives will be at risk,” said CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates. “There is no way to create a plan in this moment that addresses stakeholders’ needs and protects our children and the adults who care for them. The CTU will fight in solidarity with parents, and our allies in unions and grassroots groups in every arena—the courts, City Hall, and the court of public opinion—to protect our students and and our school communities.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has been underpinned by the slogan ‘We’re all in this together’—a platitude that fails to acknowledge that, while we may all be in the same storm, we are not all in the same boat. The United States is at an unprecedented moment of overlap between a global pandemic, deep economic recession, and an uprising for Black Lives that exposes the structural race and class fissures that have resulted in higher unemployment, exposure, infection, and death rates in Black and Brown low-income communities. Plans to restart public education in Chicago must address these deeply linked dynamics of inequity and common good needs.

Read the report at this link.

Reporters must pre-register to receive a link to the zoom press conference at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 16. Email communications@ctulocal1.org for more information.