Chicago Teachers Union is expected to hold a vote on Tuesday night, with some members wanting Chicago Public Schools to switch to remote learning due to the increase in COVID cases.
Additionally, CPS said it will suspend classes on Wednesday in the event that teachers decide to make the class remote until Jan. 18. Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined CPS CEO Pedro Martinez and Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady to give an update on Tuesday night.
The three members expressed their displeasure with the union’s decision, and they repeatedly stressed that schools are one of the safest areas to avoid COVID transmission, particularly when vaccines are readily accessible. Dr. Arwady said so far in this flurry the city has witnessed only a few hospitalizations for COVID among children. What they’ve seen is among children who are at a higher risk of developing severe illnesses and have been given the option of remote learning.
WATCH: Dr. Allison Arwady discusses data about COVID in schools
The vote is scheduled between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. The vote could be at any time after 10 p.m. The city’s leaders attempt to frame the vote as a possible walkout but union officials are insistent that it’s not it.
CPS students returned from winter break on Monday. However, union leaders claim that the classroom is not secure for students or teachers.
“Unfortunately, our union is again being backed into a corner of being the leader in the city that the mayor refuses to be,” said CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates.
Watch Mayor Lori Lightfoot discuss the situation with CTU, CPS
CPS teachers are only able to be remote if they have been authorized by the Board of Education. Union leaders have said that members who work from home could get their pay slashed.
Martinez stated that he’s communicating with CTU and is working hard to keep teachers in the classroom. Martinez said that if the CTU is able to decide to walk out and cancel classes, they will be suspended however, schools will be open to staff and administrators, and students who attend will not be denied entry.
“We will still continue to provide essential services, and we will have a plan in place whether it’s for nutrition, we still have COVID testing that’s scheduled in the schools,” said the official. stated.
CPS Chief Executive Officer Martinez discusses plans for students following the CTU vote
CTU demands that every teacher, student, and vendors take a negative test within 48 hours after returning to classes. The union is also seeking KN95 masks or ones that are similar to the ones used by all staff and students in addition to the return to the last year’s agreed-upon guidelines for moving towards remote learning, such as 10% or more percentage of positive tests.
Martinez stated that he prefers to implement targeted quarantines rather than an all-encompassing solution. Martinez presented a “fair” offer the district has made to CTU for buying 200,000 masks from KN95 for employees, to be handed out immediately and further on the way reinstatement of health screenings as well as temperature tests at schools that require them and the establishment of a task force to have meetings with CTU each day to address particular school issues.
“It is not because I have any concerns about the schools not being safe,” Martinez declared. “I am trying to respond to the anxiety that exists.”
CPS confirmed that the approach that is targeted to closings and quarantine is backed by scientific evidence.
“In what world would we think to close something essential like in-person education, when we have seen the negative effects of that when our bars remain open?” explained Professor. Arwady.
In a press conference on Tuesday afternoon at a press conference, CEO Martinez declared that he is irritated at “misinformation” about how safe the schools are.
“The amount of noise that is out there right now, the amount of misinformation, we have so many people that are afraid of parents to my staff because of the misinformation, and I again, I continue to plead, let’s listen to our medical professionals,” the doctor said.
At the same press event, Arwady said the risk for children of COVID remains very low and is similar to the risk of influenza. Doctor. Arwady said the risk is also lower for vaccine-vaccinated children.
“I just want to reassure you, if you’re vaccinated, your child is vaccinated, this is behaving really like the flu,” Arwady stated. “And we don’t close schools, especially for an extended period of time, for the flu.”
Dr. Arwady and Martinez said each CPS school is equipped with COVID tests They are also working on expanding their capacity.
In the morning, Martinez acknowledged the district’s efforts to test students from some of the most vulnerable neighborhoods in the city prior to Monday’s return from winter break. The effort was unsuccessful, as the majority of the tests at home returned were not valid after they were received by the laboratory in a way that was not completed. Martinez However, he said his visits to schools on Monday confirmed his belief that learning should be done in person, and only target those classes that were affected to be able to learn remotely whenever needed.
Parents should be concerned about school returning in COVID swell.
“I want to give the flexibility to schools because I see such a variance with what’s happening with COVID,” Martinez stated. “I was at Park Manor, for example, where almost all the teachers are out. Very few of the teachers are there in person. Then I went to other schools where we have some staff that are out and most of the children are there.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said, “The best thing that we can do for our students, staff, and all our partners at CPS is to get vaccinated. Keeping kids safely in school where they can learn and thrive is what we should all be focused on.”
A few parents expressed mixed feelings regarding the current situation.
“I feel safe regardless,” said CPS parent Shuddeen Harriott. “I think this is something that we’re obviously going to have to live with.”
“With the rise in cases, it’s like any day now that somebody is going to come in contact with COVID,” said CPS parent Chris Fulton Sr.