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The mayor has prioritized the wishes of Tom Devore — an opportunistic, right-wing extremist hundreds of miles away from Chicago — over the wishes of the people of our city.

CHICAGO, March 7, 2022The Chicago Teachers Union released this statement following the decision by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools to unilaterally remove the mask mandate in all district schools starting March 14, 2022.

The decision by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her Chicago Public Schools team to unilaterally remove the mask mandate starting March 14, 2022, is a clear violation of our January, 12, 2022, Memorandum of Agreement.

Our union will immediately be filing an unfair labor practice (ULP) charge against the district in response, and requesting that CPS bargain over this decision — a decision that impacts nearly 400,000 students, educators and school staffers in Chicago.

Our city is fortunate that the numbers around the COVID-19 pandemic have shifted, with deaths, hospitalizations and positive cases low. But CPS buildings are congregate settings where vaccination rates also remain low, especially in schools with majority Black and Brown students on the South and West sides of the city.

Students of color and their communities are particularly vulnerable as only 25 percent of all CPS schools have more than half of students fully vaccinated. Pre-kindergarten students, who are not yet eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines, are also particularly vulnerable.

Said Chicago Board of Education member Elizabeth Todd-Breland — a Black woman — at the Board’s meeting in February:

“We’ve been through this now a couple years, we’ve seen the numbers go down and we’ve seen them spike right back up again… It’s our family members who have been more sick, it’s our family members who have died, it’s our family members and our communities who have been dramatically impacted by COVID.

“Masks are not oppressing anyone. … Oppression and systemic inequality is what has actually caused the disproportionate impact along those lines of race and class.”

Today’s move by Mayor Lightfoot and CPS not only violates the Union’s agreement with the district, it ignores the impact that COVID-19 has on communities of color. The mayor has instead prioritized the wishes of Tom Devore — an opportunistic, right-wing extremist hundreds of miles away from Chicago — over the wishes of the people of our city. She has prioritized the needs of Mt. Greenwood over the needs of Englewood, Roseland, Little Village, North Lawndale and Brighton Park.

Chicago Public Schools has gone from mayoral control to Devore control, as the downstate swindler calls the shots, the mayor capitulates and CPS falls in line.

The district’s move to make masks optional without bargaining to do so safely will have health and safety consequences, so we continue to call on CPS to drastically improve accommodations by providing greater access to the Virtual Academy. CPS must also provide additional accommodations to staff with medical vulnerabilities for whom collective masking was of critical importance for their safety, in addition to:

  • Reporting the number of its adult and pediatric sized masks, and providing a specific plan for ongoing distribution to all schools or to all staff and students who want additional masks.
  • Providing guidance and training to staff and families to ensure that no one is stigmatized for continuing to wear a mask.
  • Providing a clear plan for how students under five, in particular, who are not eligible to be vaccinated, will remain safe.
  • Sharing a transparent plan as to what metric will be used to determine when masks will again be required if conditions worsen, and providing a plan as to how it will assess the impact of going mask optional and how to proactively track and address any negative consequences.
  • Sharing a plan for how the district will continue to implement quarantine and contact tracing with fidelity under a mask-optional policy.
  • Providing the weekly number of tests implemented, school by school, so there is transparent accountability to the agreement and for all stakeholders.
  • Scheduling make-up days/after school hours for members to conduct phone banking to increase student testing consent and participation in vaccination events, particularly at schools where less than 50 percent of students signed up to test, and schools with vaccination rates of eligible students below 50 percent; and ensuring that every school that has an onsite vaccination mobile clinic or other vaccination opportunities has a captain in place to coordinate school efforts for the vaccination events scheduled.
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.