On the morning of September 2, Local 73 held a joint press conference at Barton Elementary with the Chicago Teachers Union regarding the current safety protocols in Chicago Public Schools. Local 73 and has been in bargaining with CPS to ensure the mitigation measures from last year remain in place, including adequate PPE and supplies for Special Education Classroom Assistants, new bus cleaning protocols, cleaning and disinfecting standards, sick leave for members ordered to quarantine, and protections for members who are exempt from vaccinations due to religious or medical reasons.
“The fact is, vaccinations are only one part of the solution,” said Local 73 President Dian Palmer. “We have more than 100,000 students, under the age of 12, who cannot get vaccinated. Every day we delay putting in place testing and cleaning protocols is another day lives are at risk. We need CPS leadership to partner with us to keep everyone safe, healthy, and alive.”
CPS has not rolled out COVID-19 testing in schools, and essential guidelines aren’t enforced, like adequate social distancing in the classroom. On the first day of classes, Local 73 bus aides were stranded because there wasn’t enough bus transportation for students. These mitigation failures will lead to more infections and instability in our schools.
“This is not hard,” said Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacy Davis Gates. “It requires collaboration, it requires truth and transparency, it requires an acknowledgment of our humanity and respects our right to survival.”
A fifth-grade teacher and union delegate from Barton, Kevin Triplet, spoke about the conditions his students face, including a lack of running water in the bathrooms and adequate ventilation and air conditioning. “Unvaccinated, medically vulnerable students are jammed into overcrowded classrooms,” said Triplet.
CPS has to collaborate with staff, parents, and teachers to protect everyone. CPS must stop giving CTU and Local 73 the runaround in meetings to solve these problems and close the gaps in the district’s safety protocols.