Chicago Public Schools Provide Update on COVID as CTU Expected to Vote on Distance Learning Walkout Tuesday

CHICAGO (WLS) – The Chicago Teachers Union is expected to hold a vote Tuesday night as some members want Chicago public schools to switch to distance learning amid an increase in COVID cases.

Meanwhile, the CPS said it would cancel classes for Wednesday if teachers vote to go remotely.

The vote is expected between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. City leaders are trying to present it as a potential exit, while union leaders remain adamant that it is far from the case.

CPS students just returned from winter vacation on Monday. But union leaders say the classroom is not safe for teachers or students.

“Sadly, our union is once again forced to be the leader of the city that the mayor refuses to be,” said CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates.

CPS CEO Martinez insists COVID risk in schools remains low

CPS teachers can only work remotely if they are sanctioned by the Education Council. Union leaders said members who decide to work from home will likely see their wages cut.

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said he was in communication with CTU and trying to keep teachers in school. He said if CTU votes to walk out, classes will be canceled but schools will remain open for students.

At a Tuesday afternoon press conference, CEO Martinez said he was frustrated by the “misinformation” about school safety.

“The amount of noise that is out there right now, the amount of misinformation, we have so many people who are afraid of the parents of my staff because of the misinformation and I again, I continue to advocate, listen to our medical professionals, ” he said.

At the same press conference, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr Allison Arwady said the risk to children from COVID remains low and is similar to that of influenza. Dr Arwady said the risk is even lower for vaccinated children.

“I just want to reassure you, if you’re vaccinated, your kid is vaccinated, it really behaves like the flu,” Arwady said. “And we don’t close schools, especially for an extended period, for the flu.”

Dr Arwady and Martinez said every CPS school has COVID testing in place and they are working to expand their capabilities.

On Monday, Martinez acknowledged that the district’s efforts to screen students in some of the city’s most vulnerable communities before Monday’s winter break returned had been unsuccessful, after most home test kits returned. were invalidated after being received by the laboratory as well. late. Martinez, however, said his visits to various schools on Monday reinforced his view that learning should stay in person, only targeting classrooms assigned for distance learning when needed.

Martinez stopped before saying the teachers’ union was spreading the disinformation it was fighting, but said it preferred to do targeted quarantines instead of a one-size-fits-all solution. He shared what he called a “fair” offer the district made to CTU, including the purchase of 200,000 KN95 masks for staff, to be distributed immediately, and more are underway; re-establishment of health examinations and temperature checks in schools that so wish; and the creation of a tactical team to meet daily with the CTU in order to respond to the specific concerns of the school.

“It’s not because I’m worried that schools aren’t safe,” Martinez said. “I am trying to respond to the anxiety that is there.”

Union leaders argue that this is not enough. The vote expected on Tuesday evening is on whether teachers should switch to distance learning until January 18, unless certain conditions are met.

“If they vote to take a walkout tomorrow, I have to cancel classes. There just isn’t – I have to be responsible. I don’t close schools. Schools will be open,” Martinez said.

The buildings will remain open to parents who are unable to make other arrangements for their children. But a final decision has not been made, and a class notification may come out late.

Should parents be worried about going back to school during the COVID outbreak?

“I want to give schools flexibility because I see such a gap with what’s going on with COVID,” Martinez said. “I was at Park Manor, for example, where almost all the teachers are absent. Very few teachers are there in person. Then I went to other schools where we have staff who are absent and most of them are absent. children are there. “

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said, “The best thing we can do for our students, staff and all of our partners at CPS is get vaccinated. Keeping children safe in school where they can learn and thrive is what we should all be focusing on.

Some parents have expressed mixed feelings about the current situation.

“I feel safe regardless,” said CPS parent Shuddeen Harriott. “I think that’s something we’re obviously going to have to live with.”

“With the increase in cases, it’s like any day now that someone is going to come in contact with COVID,” said CPS parent Chris Fulton Sr.

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