Chicago school system and teachers’ union disagree on safety conditions as COVID cases rise
The Chicago School District and the teachers’ union are at odds over school safety conditions amid the spread of the omicron variant.
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) voted on Tuesday to return to distance learning until the recent surge in COVID-19 cases “substantially subsides” or until Mayor Lori Lightfoot “signs an agreement establishing return conditions that are voted on and approved by the CTU House of Delegates.”
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced on Tuesday that it would cancel classes on Wednesday in response to the vote as the mayor and school district clashed with the union, which held a press conference Wednesday morning to answer questions journalists and the public. .
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“Our mayor and his doctor spent a lot of time yesterday talking about the impact of COVID on young people. They’re not talking specifically about the issue of the impact of COVID on staff,” said the vice president of CTU’s Stacy Davis Gates at the meeting. “…We don’t have enough adults in the building, so there is no instruction. We store the children in large spaces with hot bodies.”
CPS told Fox News that 82% of staff reported to work on Monday after a two-week break. Public schools will only close if 40% of staff report sick. Additionally, 90% of CPS staff are vaccinated, according to the district.
The union also criticized the CPS for 25,000 COVID-19 tests that were deemed “invalid” after the tests piled up in FedEx drop boxes. Tests must be processed within 48 hours to be accurate, but testing provider COLOR told parents the tests were delayed due to “weather and holiday-related shipping issues”. The seller said CBS Chicago it supports extended test drop-off hours and more tests this week.
The CPS also said it tested 10,000 of the school district’s 340,000 students on Monday.
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COVID-19 cases in Chicago have hit record highs with a daily average of 4,775 cases, or 176.4 per 100,000 people, but deaths remain low with a daily average of 11 deaths, or 0.4 per 100,000 inhabitants. Nearly 65% of all Chicago residents are fully immunized.
“I greatly appreciate the over 80% of our staff who came, welcomed our children – all the pupils who came in, even with the pressure families felt to keep their children at home with … the continuing misinformation about the There’s just no evidence of that,” CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said Tuesday, adding that the closures should be on a school-by-school basis rather than district-wide.
He continued: “You can literally go to our website and go look class by class – we have indicators that tell us if we are having problems with filtration in any given class. All of our children are wearing masks. We are social distancing if possible. There is regular hand washing. And we solve the problems at the school level.
Parents can “work with” individual schools if they don’t want their children to return to in-person classes, he added.
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Lightfoot said “hundreds of thousands” of families depend on CPS for their “everyday needs”, including education, food and child safety. Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said every public school building in Chicago will have access to COVID testing. She also noted that no child has died from COVID-19 since October, even as omicron cases rise in the city.
The teachers’ union disagrees that conditions are safe enough to teach in person.
“We want to be in our buildings to educate our students – but we are entitled to rigorous layered mitigation that ensures we are not sacrificing our lives for our livelihoods either,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey, in a Dec. 30 statement. “The CPS has the funds – over 2 billion by its own calculations – to be able to do what is necessary from Monday morning to keep people safe. If these mitigations are not in place by Monday to protect our educators, students, and families, we plan for chaos.”
Meanwhile, President Biden, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and a national health organization such as the American Academy of Pediatrics are pushing to keep schools open after the winter break.
“Let’s be clear here about Chicago schools – No one wants schools closed,” Weingarten tweeted Wednesday. “…We do this by working together to roll out testing, masking and vaccination – and most major districts have done so. NYC and LA have rigorous testing programs in place to catch asymptomatic spread of COVID on his footsteps and keeping educators, students and their communities safe. Mayor Lightfoot should leave no stone unturned to get Chicago right.
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US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and the American Academy of Pediatrics have noted that school closures have a disproportionate impact on minority students in urban schools who may not have access to the same remote learning tools as children from suburban areas.
A January 2021 report by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) noted that as schools reopen for in-person instruction, “cases of School-related COVID-19s have been reported, but there has been little evidence that schools have contributed significantly to increased community transmission.
Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer, Emma Colton and Brie Stimson contributed to this report.