CHICAGO, Jan. 9, 2022 — On Saturday, Chicago public school educators presented the people of Chicago with a comprehensive plan to get a safe, welcoming and healthy reopening of its public schools. This proposal included a timeline for a safe return to in-person learning, and mitigation strategies to keep students, families and school communities as safe as possible during this current COVID-19 surge.
Saturday’s proposal comes on the heels of reporting that Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Chicago Public Schools leadership team for weeks rejected SHIELD testing and mitigation support from Governor J.B. Pritzer and the State of Illinois.
The mayor has also called opt-out COVID-19 testing “morally repugnant,” despite the fact that dozens of other Illinois districts and more nationwide have been administering opt-out tests this school year.
But educators are not the enemy Mayor Lightfoot wants them to be. They are parents, grandparents, clergy, community partners and Chicagoans. The one place the more than 20,000 teachers, clinicians, paraprofessionals and other educators of this city want to be is inside classrooms with their students. This desire must be balanced by ensuring those classrooms are safe, healthy and well-resourced, with the proper mitigation necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
At Spry Community Links High School in Little Village, 15 out of the school’s 18 classrooms are in quarantine until Jan. 18. On Monday, Jan. 3, there were 130 students absent at Spry, and of the remaining 185 students, 62 tested positive for COVID-19.
This situation has been playing out at schools across the city of Chicago all year.
The Chicago Teachers Union has been at the bargaining table for the past six months — before the discovery and spread of the Omicron variant — with CPS and Mayor Lightfoot asking for collaboration and well-thought-out mitigation strategies to keep students, families and educators safe. Regrettably, these requests have fallen upon deaf ears, resulting in attacks on teachers and a five-day lockout that has disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands of students and families.
The Union wants to reassure the parents and guardians of Chicago that we will remain at the bargaining table until we reach an agreement that will return us all to in-person learning safely and equitably.