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The House of Delegates overwhelmingly ratified this resolution at its October 6, 2021 monthly meeting.

Resolution on Escalating Actions for School Safety

WHEREAS COVID-19 case rates, hospitalizations, and deaths have recently been fueled by the spread of the Delta variant which is more than two times as contagious than the original strain and is having a disproportionate impact on low income and Black communities;

WHEREAS COVID-19 has ravaged particularly parts of the country with low vaccination rates—for example, as of early October 2021, only 43% of the eligible population of Alabama is vaccinated compared with 54% of the eligible population in Illinois, and the average COVID-19 positivity rate is around 14% in Alabama and below 3% in Illinois;

WHEREAS parts of Chicago have lower rates of vaccination than parts of the country that have seen staggering death tolls–for example, the South Side zip codes of 60621, 60633, and 60649, which include parts of Englewood, Hegewisch, Woodlawn/South Shore, have respective rates of fully vaccinated eligible community members of 36.3%, 36.8%, and 38.6%, and on the West Side, the 60644 zip code, including parts of Austin, are at 39.5% fully vaccinated;

WHEREAS two staff members at Englewood STEM High School (60621) contracted COVID-19 at the start of the school year and communication lagged and school union members organized and brought public attention to the need for increased community vaccination and timely contact tracing;

WHEREAS two Black mothers from the West Side Jensen Elementary school community died from COVID-19 and union members at the school had to organize to force CPS to conduct additional COVID-19 testing and safety measures in the school since the start of the school year;

WHEREAS CPS, after being exposed for sharing out of date and inaccurate information on COVID-19 cases in schools, now acknowledges on their tracker that there have been 11 COVID-19 cases in the Jensen school community and 9 at Englewood STEM since the start of the school year, and thousands of students in quarantine;

WHEREAS CPS has reported over 300 adult staff COVID-19 cases and over 1,200 student COVID-19 cases in CPS schools just between August 29th and October 5th, even as CPS has admitted it has only tested a fraction of students and is still ‘ramping up’ contact tracing – both critical mitigation strategies to keep COVID out of our schools;

WHEREAS CPS’ actions and bargaining stands make clear that the Mayor and her Board of Education intend to never move an individual school or the district to remote learning, regardless of the level of COVID-19 outbreaks, cases in our schools or the number of staff, children, or family members ill, hospitalized, or killed by COVID-19;

WHEREAS the onset of cold weather fueled an upsurge in COVID-19 last year;

WHEREAS last year’s upsurge hit poorest communities the hardest;

WHEREAS ,we are heading into the most dangerous time of year without confidence in CPS nor a written safety agreement;

WHEREAS CPS’ safety rollout has been a debacle and was not in place at the start of the year: since the school year began, 95% of students and staff have never been tested for COVID-19 under CPS’ program, their contact tracing program has been inadequate to meet the needs of the job, CPS vaccination events are barely visible, and CPS has lost the public’s confidence;

WHEREAS CPS is currently engaged in several serious unfair labor practices, including unilaterally changing or discontinuing various health and safety protocols that were part of our SY2020-21 Memorandum of Agreement and that are mandatory subjects of bargaining;

WHEREAS the CTU has negotiated and reached safety agreements with more than ten charter school operators that include safety measures we have demanded of CPS such as weekly testing of all students and staff, clear metrics to temporarily return a school to remote learning should there be an outbreak, and additional nurses, counselors and other staff to support students;

WHEREAS staying safe in our schools depends on visible solidarity among members of different school communities and supporting each other;

WHEREAS our campaign of public pressure has already had results: with CPS agreeing to maintain safety committees, an increase in PSRP hiring, and increased testing;

WHEREAS we are still determined to win an improved safety agreement because we must keep all our school communities safe and not leave Black communities behind;

WHEREAS our demands for a safety agreement include mandatory weekly testing for all students and staff via an opt-out, rather than opt-in, process, contact tracing within 48 hours and broad timely communication to staff and families, a public master schedule of all vaccination events in at least 100 CPS schools per week and an organizing blitz to take advantage of them, increased staffing, especially of substitute teachers, nurses, and social workers to address instructional and socio-emotional needs of our students, and a clear metric related to COVID-19 prevalence by which CPS would agree to move individual schools or the district to remote learning to ensure safety;

RESOLVED that the CTU will share information on and materials to support the union’s safety goals with our members, such as the concrete demands that are outstanding for a safety agreement; and

RESOLVED that CTU safety committees in every school must meet and engage in advocacy to improve CPS’ safety plans and protect the health of their school community; and

RESOLVED that CTU members will hold union meetings to discuss and plan ways to show solidarity especially for schools with the greatest COVID-19 risks and impacts; and

RESOLVED that CTU members will conduct visible, school based actions such as walk-ins, speak outs and collectively wearing CTU red; and

RESOLVED that CTU members will speak to parent and community groups, including flyering before and after school, sending information on our concerns, demands and needs via signed petitions and resolutions to their LSCs; and

RESOLVED that CTU members will hold CPS to high standards of safety in our schools regardless of whether the Mayor and district leaders finally bargain in earnest for a safety agreement; and be it finally

RESOLVED that the CTU is committed to taking the escalating actions that are necessary to increase safety in our schools.