Mayor Lori Lightfoot, CPS defend in-person learning plan with students set for classroom return

CTU continues to voice safety concerns

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Friday, January 8, 2021
Mayor Lightfoot, CPS say schools ready for return of students
Mayor Lightfoot and CEO Jackson both said CPS schools will be ready and safe for students starting on Monday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot stated clearly Chicago Public Schools are doing everything they can to minimize the spread of coronavirus among students and staff working to dispel what she calls "myths."

"Myth number one, that proper PPE will not be supplied won't be supplied to students and staff," Lightfoot said. "Utterly false....Another myth, that many of our schools lack proper ventilation when in fact, thanks to an $8.5 million investment, every classroom and front office that will be used during this time will be equipped with its own HEPA purifier."

CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson detailed the $100 million spent to outfit schools and classrooms with better ventilation systems and other safety improvements highlighting what she called the need for an in-person option.

RELATED: Half of teachers slated to return to school failed to show up: CPS

"For many of these students their parents are themselves the essential workers that we have been applauding throughout this pandemic and many of them cannot stay home throughout the day to help their students learn in a remote environment and for that reason, we must reopen our doors and give them an option," Jackson said.

But the Chicago Teachers Union just released images from their members Friday morning, saying classrooms and facilities have not been adequately cleaned, working to bolster their position that a return to in-person learning is unsafe at this time.

Jackson did not mince words.

"We know that a small portion of staff members will not choose to return," she said. "Those individuals will be deemed absent without leave and they will not be eligible for pay going forward."

RELATED: Chicago Public Schools reopening in-person learning starting in January, school district announces

Chicago Public Schools announced Tuesday that it will return to in-person instruction beginning in January after winter break.

CPS says more than 60% of teachers have been at work this week, while some opted to stay outside in the winter weather citing health concerns.

"Operationally we are prepared to open and conduct school on Monday," Jackson said.

But it's not good enough for the Chicago Teachers Union. CTU continues to fight a reopening suggesting a delay to in-person education to allow teachers to be vaccinated first.

"Some of the (union) demands simply defy the best available guidance from public health experts," Jackson said.

CPS expects 6,000 students in classrooms on Monday and another 70,000 on February 1.