Chicago Public Schools parents protest near Mayor Lightfoot's home in call for remote learning

Tuesday, September 14, 2021
Chicago area parents push for remote learning option in schools
Chicago Public Schools parents held a protest near Mayor Lori Lightfoot's home as they call for a remote learning option for students.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Some parents in Chicago and the suburbs are calling for remote learning options as some children are sent home to quarantine.

A group of Chicago Public School parents gathered at the center of Logan Square to call for, among other things, a remote learning option, especially for children too young to be vaccinated.

The parents said the classrooms are overcrowded, and thousands of kids have been sent home to quarantine only to find they have no access to remote learning. They want the mayor to make changes.

"We want a remote option," said Cortney Ritsema, co-organizer of the protest. "We're not comfortable sending them in person so we've been begging CPS for a remote option."

The parents also say CPS contact tracers are a week behind and not returning calls.

The rally marched from the square to the area near Mayor Lori Lightfoot's house nearby.

Maria Estrada pulled her 12- and 9-year-old from CPS after the older was exposed to a classmate with COVID on the first day of school. Neither child has been vaccinated.

"Have they had better planning and put the CARES funds to use we wouldn't be in this situation," she said. "Why is testing rolling out so late? Do they want to have a superspreader event?"

As a whole, they demanded robust school-based COVID testing and significantly more contact tracing.

"If I knew that I've been exposed, I could go into my building in the morning or go outside my building and get a rapid test before I walk in," said Nora Flanagan, English teacher at Northside College Prep. "Oh my goodness, would I feel safer about not getting people sick."

RELATED: CPS COVID cases: CTU criticizes Lightfoot for 'deplorable lack of transparency and misinformation'

"Would you want to be masked in a small room with 30 people and then unmasked in that same room eating lunch? Would you feel safe as a vaccinated adult even? Most adults would say no, so putting our unvaccinated kids in those conditions seems utterly ridiculous," said Leigh Mabry White, CPS parent and Sick Out organizer.

ABC7 has reached out to CPS for comment and have not heard back. Mayor Lightfoot has stated many times that schools are safe and that much has been invested in making sure of that.

Gov. JB Pritzker said the state is trying its best to keep kids in school, and views remote learning as a last resort while still keeping students, teachers and families safe.

And there are plenty of parents around the state also trying to keep their kids in the classroom.

"I just think last year they missed out on so many opportunities," said Sandy Vilips, whose daughter is a senior at York High School in Elmhurst. "I don't think it's good for their mental health to stay at home and not be with their friends and engaged in the classroom."

RELATED: Some Chicago Public Schools students face CPS quarantine after Labor Day weekend travel

In Waukegan, Sebrina Jamison got notice that her granddaughter, a 4th grader at Glenwood Elementary School was in close contact with another student with COVID.

That means the district wants her to quarantine for ten days at home without access to remote learning.

"She doesn't have the schooling from the teacher, so she's at home for ten days with a negative test," Jamison said.

Denise Romero said her 6-year-old son's entire kindergarten class is now in quarantine and doing remote learning for the next two weeks after several students, including her son, tested positive for COVID-19. She said the district failed to inform her of the other students until too late.

"For those young children who are not vaccinated, there should be an option to keep them home and safe until vaccination is available," she said.

Waukegan public schools, a district of 17,000 students and staff, have had 73 cases since classes started a month ago.

Incidents like that are why a group of parents and community activists are calling on the district to better communicate with parents regarding COVID cases in school.

The district said in a statement, "The notifications are general, and among other things, they detail how many people have tested positive and what dates those persons were in the building when potentially contagious."

However, these parents also want the district to give parents and students the option of remote learning.

"If they don't feel it's safe, they should have the choice to send or not send their child," said school board member, Anita Hanna.

"There should be a choice of hybrid classroom so they can be safe if that's what the families choose to do," added activist Julie Contreras.

Some parents also said the school has not taken enough safety precautions.

They said students sit too close together in the classroom and they don't offer testing -- although Chicago COVID Control is setting up a free site near the school starting next week.

"Everyone should take the effort of getting tested and make sure their schools are safe," said Ike Khan with Chicago COVID Control.

While some parents said they want remote learning, it's unclear whether the district has the capability to offer it at this point. Jamison said she plans to meet with the superintendent this week.