Chicago Public Schools reopening plan takes center stage at Board of Education meeting; debate between CTU, Lightfoot continues

Chicago Teachers Union asks for all-remote learning plan, not 'hybrid,' as COVID-19 cases continue to rise

Wednesday, July 22, 2020
CPS back to school debate takes center stage at Board meeting
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While it wasn't officially on the agenda, Chicago's school reopening plan debate took center stage at the CPS Board of Education meeting Wednesday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Chicago Public Schools board met Wednesday morning for the first time since they unveiled the district's back to school plan last week.

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union are not happy with Mayor Lori Lightfoot's plan for the fall school semester.

RELATED: CPS, mayor release hybrid learning framework for possible Chicago school reopenings in fall

Depending on your age and grade, the plan involves in-person instruction, remote learning, or both.

Though not on the agenda, the tentative hybrid plan that combines at-home and in-person instruction took center stage, with the message that input is needed from all district stakeholders about their needs and concerns to help determine the safest way to enter school in the fall.

"We are determined to provide all students with high quality education that means social-emotional needs," said CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson.

"We know what we know about science, we know that we are shutting down bars tomorrow, because it's unsafe, we know that we are putting stricter limitations," CTU Vice President Stacey Davis Gates said. "The lakefront isn't even open, the playgrounds are not open, but we're gonna open schools?"

The teachers union has said the mayor's plan fails to guarantee school communities will have what they need to open safely, like adequate cleaning measures and supplies.

RELATED: CTU President Jesse Sharkey reiterates calls for remote learning in fall for CPS

CTU President Jesse Sharkey spoke with ABC7 about teachers' opposition to in-person learning to start the school yaer.

"Providing 400 additional janitors to our schools is not enough," special education teacher Erin Lynch said. "We have more than 400 schools; that's less than one person that will provide extra cleaning to our schools, providing us 40,000 tubs of sanitizing wipes when we have over 30,000 employees -- that means I might be lucky to get two tubs of wipes. That might get me through two lunch periods."

A caravan of teachers and staff met at CICS ChicagoQuest, Chicago International Charter School, Wednesday morning, heading toward CPS headquarters, where the board meeting was being held.

The mayor issued the initial back-to-school plan last week that includes part-time remote learning for some, full-time for others and some in-person classes as well.

In the meantime, many parents aren't sure what the best choice is.

"Why aren't we thinking of how we use open spaces? Park districts? Field houses? Vacant lots? Heated tents?" wondered Brenda Delgado.

Delgado is the board president of parent advocacy group Raise Your Hand Illinois, and mother of three CPS students. She said she wants to see more innovation in the planning.

The first virtual parent input meeting about the plan is set for Monday. A final decision on the CPS reopening plan will be made in August, but Jackson said if health conditions get worse then school buildings will not reopen in the fall.