Unions Raise Concerns Over CPS COVID Response

CPS Zoom

On a virtual press conference, CTU and SEIU Local 73 raised concerns over Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) response to the ongoing COVID pandemic. The unions highlighted Park Manor Elementary School where 70% of the school population is currently under quarantine.

“Mayor Lightfoot’s hand-picked board has an obligation to help school communities in need, yet has simply refused to even acknowledge the challenges that Park Manor is confronting. You don’t protect people by burying your head in the sand and refusing to face challenges,” said Jesse Sharkey, CTU President. “The mayor and CPS say they care. Well, their actions show the opposite. They could be doing so much more to keep people safe. With an even more virulent new variant on the march and cases exploding across the nation, CPS must immediately agree to work with us cooperatively on safety strategies for January. We have been asking CPS to partner with us for months to strengthen safety in our schools, and it’s time for the mayor’s CPS team to step up to save lives.”

“We have problems with testing, contact tracing and more. We don’t even have a school nurse for our care room – in a pandemic. That makes no sense,” said Taneka Griffin-Lindsey, special education classroom assistant and Local 73 member. “Many get their positive test results days after they’ve been sent back to the classroom – potentially needlessly exposing others. We need tools like rapid testing, yet instead CPS simply refuses to consider the risk of spread or outbreak or consider a pause even as our case counts get worse and fully vaxed workers who’ve been exposed are getting sick. We’ve had close to 20 kids test positive, plus our principal, one teacher and 4 SECAs in the last 10 days – yet CPS refuses to acknowledge our safety issues or concerns.”

“Our workers are the backbone of our schools, and when we ignore their safety, we put not just them in peril, but put their children and families at risk, too. Yet this mayor and her school team simply refuse to admit that we need enforceable safety agreements that protect staff and students,” said Dian Palmer, SEIU Local 73 President. Next year cannot be the same as this past fall. We need maximum safety in our schools not just minimums. As the cases rose at Park Manor, the school should have been paused. Instead, the principal herself stuck her neck out and called for a pause because they’re now at about 20 cases. What constitutes an outbreak? We need opt out testing, a clear metric for operational pause, clean schools, and vaccination events. And even with those things we’ll still have some concerns but at least we will be on the right path to making our schools, our staff, and our children safe.”

“When we know better as leaders we have a responsibility and an obligation to do better. And we know better than what’s going on right now in Chicago Public Schools. We know that there are stricter safety guidelines that we can put in place to protect people and the children of Chicago,” said Stacia Scott, SEIU Local 73 Executive Vice President. Our members who are special education classroom assistants, custodians, security officers, bus aides, and parent workers, go to work every day with fear. They’re afraid to go into the buildings and they’re afraid to go home at night, scared about what they might pass on to their families. The safety of Chicago’s children should not be dependent on a personality of a principal. But right now, without clear leadership and direction from the district, that’s exactly what the reality is in Chicago Public Schools. We need clear safety measures to protect people’s lives and make sure that our children are able to learn in a safe and caring environment.”