Classes in Chicago Public Schools have been cancelled for the fourth day as Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Pedro Martinez continue to reject remote learning. Chicago Teachers Union leaders and members, spoke outside Spry Elementary School in Little Village, along with Local 73, parents, and public officials. Testing on Monday, Jan. 3 showed only three classes did not have a positive test case. This included nearly half of the students being absent that day.
Through Dec. 10 COVID testing enrollment sits at 16% across city schools while Illinois Department of Public Health data shows nearly 7,800 youth cases. According to the CPS COVID-19 dashboard, which reports the district’s own data, 20% of all disclosed COVID-19 exposures in CPS since the pandemic began happened in just two days this past week — with 2,400 identified positive cases among teachers and students, and 9,000 in quarantine.
“I’m urging CEO Martinez to come to the table and negotiate openly and fairly with the Chicago Teacher’s Union. And while you’re doing that, there is no harm in leaving these children home to be taught remotely. Remote education is better than no education at all,” said Dian Palmer, President of SEIU Local 73.
“Right now we’re experiencing a dangerous Omicron surge. We’re seeing hospitalization rates at dangerous levels. And what’s needed is the ability to get together to reach an agreement to restart instruction,” said Jesse Sharkey, President of CTU. “Our teachers have been in these schools throughout the pandemic. We’re asking for some basic, common sense safety measures. We want a metric to be able to pause a school like Spry when a majority of its classes are on quarantine. We don’t want to lose instruction time, but the Mayor is being punitive with us.”
The Chicago Teachers Union is calling for remote learning starting Wednesday, a return to in-person classes the following week, an opt-out testing program that would randomly test students and staff, and a metric for flipping the entire district to remote learning.
“I have a first grader who cannot attend for medical reasons and a kindergartner who does attend,” said Joanna Ruiz, parent. “But a medical professional, and a parent, I can see that it’s not safe in schools right now. The numbers are rising everywhere. Teachers are doing everything they can and they need our support.”
“Little Village is one of the communities most impacted by COVID in the state with the highest numbers at the start,” said Mike Rodriguez, Alderman 22nd Ward. “We’ve met almost every Monday to coordinate with the City, teachers, and parents. I’m hearing from everyone I represent that we need to take a pause and learn remotely while we get past this surge. I support this.”
“There should be a care room to send COVID positive students. But there is none, because Mayor Lightfoot and CPS have failed to deliver on the promise of the COVID protocols they put in place,” said Alicia Ivy, Spry School Nurse.
“I had COVID before there was a vaccine. I know how serious this is. I don’t understand why it’s only parents, teachers, and staff who are taking this seriously and not the mayor. As it was already said, remote education is better than no education,” said State Rep. Edgar Gonzalez, Jr. (D-21).