Teachers, parents demand Chicago Archdiocese revise school reopening plans, begin year remotely

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Some teachers and parents want the Chicago Archdiocese to change their school reopening plans, which currently involve in-person classes.

A small group of parents and teachers represented by workers' rights group Arise Chicago went to the archdiocese's offices in the Gold Coast neighborhood Thursday afternoon to demand they make changes to how Chicago's Catholic school classes are held.

Archdiocese of Chicago releases reopening plans for Catholic schools

The Archdiocese of Chicago's official re-opening guidelines released in July call for daily temperature checks, masks, students grouped into cohorts, and the option for online remote learning.

"We have a family who, he is an infectious disease doctor and he is sending his 4-year-old to school, so that I think speaks volumes," said Claudia Villagrana, an employee at St. Procopious.

Parents who chose in-person learning were asked to sign a waiver agreeing to the guidelines and relinquishing any potential legal action.

"One teacher summarized it by saying, 'It is unsafe, unreasonable, irresponsible, reckless and disrespectful to our families,'" said Rev. C.J. Hawking of Arise Chicago.

Teachers said they do not feel comfortable going back to school, and parents echoed those concerns, if not for their children, then for the teachers themselves.

"The archdiocese is cherry picking which guidelines suit their purposes," teacher Lauren Welch said. "I'm concerned about my school and any school's ability to truly follow the strongest scientific guidelines for the entire school day."

The group said they do not consider the reopening plan to be safe as Illinois' COVID-19 case numbers and positivity rate continue to creep up.

"I can't count the number of times my kids have brought an illness home from school, and kids are kids," parent Rachel Ferrell said.

"We demand to begin the school year with remote learning," teacher James Cahill said. "We demand that teachers themselves be heavily included in any and all reopening plans in a sincere and in a meaningful way."

Teachers are asking for a response to their demands by Tuesday.

The Archdiocese of Chicago said their buildings meet the strict state public health standards and were vigorously vetted, and guidelines will be adjusted at each school as needed.
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