Chicago’s Parents Prove to Be Key in Getting Schools Back in Session

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District, union leadership supports COVID-19 plan with metrics for when to close individual schools

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Teachers voted to switch to distance learning last Tuesday as Covid-19 cases rose in the city and said they had lost faith in the district’s mitigation plan. Teachers went back to work on Tuesday after the teachers’ union leadership on Monday night backed a deal to end the impasse. In-person classes are set to resume on Wednesday after five days of missed classes for students.

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Many parents say they are fed up with the constant squabbles with teachers and the administration, joining Facebook groups, signing petitions and calling their alderman to urge a resolution. and bringing children back to school.

“I think there has been a really big difference to this. The parents basically said we wouldn’t stand in this anymore,” said Joel Braunold, a member of the local school council at Nettelhorst Elementary School in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood , where his daughter attends Pre-K.

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When his daughter returned to school at the end of winter break and was in two-week quarantine at the end of last semester, he told her it was the happiest day of her life. “And then on Tuesday straight after telling her that she couldn’t go back to her school,” she said.

The Chicago Teachers’ Union voted to switch to distance learning last Tuesday for two weeks as new Covid-19 cases surged nearly 5,000 per day, a record level during the pandemic, as fueled by Omicron Editions. They demanded more testing, KN95 masks for everyone in school buildings, health check-ups in schools and other measures.

Mayor Lightfoot, who announced on Tuesday afternoon that he had tested positive for Covid-19, protested a districtwide switch to distance learning that has caused disruption in families and harm to students, especially students of color.

In the end, the union’s governing body voted on Monday night to accept a return to personal instruction. Mayor Lightfoot said a key measure in resolving the conflict was a metric that under certain circumstances individual schools would be closed if 30% of teachers were said to be ill or 40% of students could not attend due to illness or exposure to the virus. is called for. ,

The city also agreed to provide KN95 masks to both staff and students and said that health screening would be conducted in individual schools. Union membership still has to ratify the agreement for it to be fully effective. So far, the district has not agreed to pay teachers for four days of classes. Union president Jesse Sharkey said he hoped the days would be made and that teachers would be paid that way.

“It’s not a perfect agreement, but it’s certainly something we can hold our heads about, partly because it was so difficult to achieve,” Mr Sharkey said in a Zoom call to reporters on Monday evening.

During Mayor Lightfoot’s tenure, the teachers union has done three things: an 11-day strike in 2019; One week delay in resuming in-person instruction last year; And this last week’s walkout, sparked a smattering of support among parents.

“Parents have mostly been in favor of the CTU,” said Dick Simpson, a political science professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and a former Chicago alderman. “This time around, I think it’s true that the parents were really worried about how they would manage their lives if there was all this uncertainty and they didn’t know day to day whether their kids would be able to go back to school or not. No. Man.”

Mr Simpson said his university had decided to start the semester with distance instruction to allow time for the Omicron surge to subside, but that trust between the teachers union and schools was low enough that such an agreement could be reached. was out.

“Something similar could have been done for public schools had they known when they were going to do it and parents could plan,” he said.

Some parents backed the teachers, noting that the risks of spreading the virus are high as cases rise. Swift Specialty School in the Edgewater neighborhood, said Tim Lacey, a father of fourth and eighth grade daughters, “I’m basically with the teachers union, which I think was seeking rational, rational resources. Was.” He serves on the local school council.

He added that the mayor has “really dropped the ball in terms of hiring a CEO or CPS chief who could have been a better bridge builder.”

But for many others, the disappointments were overwhelming.

“It is very clear that the district has not been wonderful,” said Mr Braunold, managing director at Pre-K Parents, with problems keeping schools clean and a failed Covid-19 testing program over winter break. , he said. Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. “There were many things to be disappointed about. And yet, the CTU doesn’t get public health authority for the city of Chicago.”

Write [email protected] . but Joe Barrett

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