Growing body of science shows schools in communities with high COVID rates can intensify spread of pandemic, as thousands of educators return to schools that lack even basic safety protocols.
- 6:30 a.m., Wednesday, Jan. 6 — Press conference with rank and file educators denied right to work remotely for safety, health reasons. Reporters, see your email for registration info or email email@example.com.
CHICAGO—Thousands of rank and file educators, clinicians and support staff want the right to continue working remotely because they or a family member are at higher risk of illness and death should they contract COVID-19. CPS’ response has been to refuse to allow educators to ask for an accommodation if family members at risk — and even to deny members with serious personal health risks like brain cancer the right to work remotely.
Those educators are speaking out at a press conference via Zoom at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 6, to share their concerns about being forced to choose between their livelihoods and the lives of themselves and their loved ones, as CPS continues to move to force workers and students into unsafe working and learning conditions.
Half of the pre-k and special education cluster teachers in elementary and high schools scheduled to start teaching from school buildings Monday refused to work in-person on January 4, electing instead to continue teaching students safely by remaining remote. Workers who did go in on Monday have also reported serious safety issues at their schools — and a reluctance to return to buildings that lack even the most basic safety protocols that CPS has been promising for months — but has yet to deliver to buildings.
70 percent of Black and Brown families continue to reject sending hundreds of thousands of their children back into unsafe school buildings. At the same time, a growing body of evidence shows that schools in neighborhoods with high COVID rates can increase spread of the virus. That’s a critical issue for families and educators, who fear both contracting the virus and inadvertently passing it along to elders or medically vulnerable household members.
A growing number of Local School Councils are also passing resolutions urging CPS to wait to reopen until the pandemic is under control. And more than 10,000 CTU members have pledged to oppose the mayor’s plan to reopen classrooms starting this week, with numbers increasing by the day.
Educators who returned to schools on Monday almost immediately began reporting problems with cleanliness, safety protocols, ventilation and more, with some members saying their rooms appeared not to have been cleaned since last March. CTU members reported issues that ranged from no sinks or hot water sources for handwashing to lack of PPE and filthy classrooms. CPS promised last summer to hire an additional 400 janitors to address CPS’ chronic school cleanliness issues, but CPS CEO Janice Jackson admitted on Tuesday that less than half of those workers have been on-boarded four months later. Most schools still have no nurse or health care worker on site during the pandemic, and CPS has continued to refuse to test aging school ventilation systems for their ability — or failure — to prevent spread of the virus.