Tuesday morning, rank-and-file CTU members Mike Smith of Englewood STEM and Mueze Bawany of Clemente joined Clemente student Cam Velasquez at a press conference to talk about how hard it was for students and families to get vaccinated. The message was clear: Mayor Lightfoot and her CPS team are letting students and families down and undermining the safety of our school communities by dragging on implementing our agreement to vaccinate eligible students and their family members. Watch the press conference here or click on the image above.

When we fight, we win

Remember, the mayor and CPS initially had zero intention of facilitating vaccines through our school communities. But through bargaining, the proactive actions of our members and a tireless organizing campaign by rank-and-file educators and our allies, they were forced in negotiations to agree to a vaccination program.

Vaccines are critical to safely reopening schools this fall to all CPS students — most of whom continue to learn remotely. The pressure has worked.

Vaccination event at Fenger H.S.

Your commitment to the safety of our students and their families is forcing CPS to act. We expect the district to announce a walk-in vaccine event at Fenger High School from 10 a.m. to noon this Saturday. Both Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be made available to anyone who visits for a vaccine (not limited to CPS students or family members).

We expect to hear more announcements from CPS of vaccination opportunities for students and parents in underserved neighborhoods in the coming weeks.

This is a powerful protection for our students and school communities that we can be proud to have fought for and won — but still doesn’t go far enough. CPS has been completely indifferent so far to living up to the spirit of collaborating and providing specific vaccine opportunities weekly, even as our students continue to tell us they’re struggling to access shots for themselves and family members.

Educators are here to help

After seeing creativity from the City of Chicago and the Chicago Department of Public Health in recognizing the need for vaccination outreach, CTU President Jesse Sharkey wrote Mayor Lightfoot on April 28 to call for meaningful movement from CPS in collaborating with teachers, PSRPs, clinicians, counselors and librarians. Chicago public school educators would be an incredible asset to the City in its vaccination campaign efforts, if only they are given a real opportunity to do so.

We will continue to press the mayor’s handpicked Chicago Board of Education, and hold it accountable for the safety of our school communities. We expect the mayor and CPS to honor our agreement to provide dedicated blocks of appointments and real collaboration on a plan.

The CTU’s recommendations for coordination include the following:

  1. Pursuant to the Addendum to the MOA, immediately provide specific blocks of appointments for age-eligible CPS students and families.
  2. Set a shared goal of vaccinating no less than 80% of age-eligible CPS students and family members by August, and report progress toward that goal on a weekly basis.
  3. Schedule at least 10 collaborative vaccine events geared toward age-eligible CPS students and families between now and the end of June.
  4. Connect with schools in the Sustainable Community Schools program that house social service programs and partner with community organizations, schools near existing vaccine sites, and schools that house health clinics, to set up vaccine events targeted at age-eligible CPS students and families.
  5. Have CPS pay for buses for parent and student vaccine field trips, and coordinate with our members and community partners to fill the seats.

Just the beginning

We may need to step up our pressure on CPS to keep its end of the bargain, especially with vaccines on the horizon soon for children aged 12-15. Our schools are natural community networks in the very neighborhoods that continue to struggle to access shots, and when we bargained for student and family vaccination, we specifically requested to collaborate around school-connected vaccination events

We plan to hold the mayor and CPS leadership to their word on this critical piece of our agreement.

In safety and solidarity,
Chicago Teachers Union