Reopening debate intensifies at CPS

A lot happened over the weekend that impacts school reopening plans for K-8th grade in Chicago Public Schools. Teachers were supposed to be back in the building today but the district delayed this until Wednesday for K-8th grade as the Chicago Teachers Union and CPS negotiate over a list of demands regarding safety measures. CPS says that the start date for K-8 in person learning will still be 2/1, but the CTU took a vote to support a resolution to reject in person learning at this time with 71% supporting the resolution.

It is unclear whether CPS will lock teachers out if they choose to continue working remotely, but we should know more in the next day or two as CPS and CTU continue to meet. PreK and special education cluster students’ families have had the option of sending them for the past two weeks, but in the end, only 19% of eligible students have been attending in person. In the meantime, CPS is requiring that PreK and special education teachers continue to teach in-person.

It’s our view that CPS should allow teachers to get vaccinated and should do everything in their power to expedite this process, and they should not lock out teachers and deprive students of the remote learning experience they are receiving. Teachers in other districts that are still fully remote are starting to get vaccinated, and this seems to be the safest approach. In addition, CPS’s reopening plan only calls for testing 25% of teachers per week and no testing for students. While some suburban districts that are opening or reopening are rolling out weekly saliva tests for all staff and students at $11/person—yet another illustration of the vast funding inequity across districts in our state.

Also, note that ISBE shares data about how many school districts and students are back in school. Right now, only 9% of students are in school full time, 35% are hybrid and 55% are fully remote in Illinois. 

We are in full understanding of how difficult this is for our children who are missing out on so many of the important elements of in-person learning and for parents who are struggling to do their jobs at this time.

It should also be pointed out that with Mayor Lightfoot bemoaning the difficulty of navigating labor disputes, the burden of running the school district could be lifted from her shoulders if she were finally willing to support a fully elected, representative school board like the vast majority of US school districts haveand like she herself claimed she wanted on the campaign trail!

What can you do?

  • We support this petition started by Logan Square Neighborhood Association asking CPS not to lock out teachers. Please sign on if you agree with it! Interrupting remote learning while the parameters of in-person learning are being settled doesn’t serve any family.
  • Stay in touch with your legislators! Their decisions about the governance structure of our schools and school funding have a direct impact on public school families every day existence, and the significance of those decisions is more impactful than ever. They should be hearing from their constituents about family life during a pandemic in a district with an unelected board.