'Listen to the parents. Work together with parents,' West Side CPS parents and educators asking to be included in district decisions

Chicago (WLS) -- As some Chicago Public school students have completed their first week of in-class learning, educators and parents from the West Side community said they feel unheard.

"This past Monday, I got a notification from CPS that I was put on an AWOL status which means absent without leave," said Estela Mirabarreda, a Pre-k teacher at Pilsen's Whitter Elementary school.

The Pre-K teacher opted not to return to the classroom this week. Her tough decision not to show up prompted the district to shut down her accounts.

"From Monday evening I don't have access to my email account, I don't have access to any CPS systems," said Mirabarreda.

The teacher believes in-person learning will only increase COVID cases in her community. The West Side neighborhoods among the hardest hit by the pandemic.

"There's this new virus variant that the data shows that it's more contagious and that does affect children and it's only going to go up it we open schools," said Mirabarreda.

Vanessa Espinoza, a mother from the Back of the Yards neighborhood, opted to have her kids learn remotely. They attend the Gunsaulus Scholastic Academy. Espinoza said her main concern is cleanliness and said CPS's plan is too vague.

"I don't know the schedule of cleaning, the kids are supposed to go to the bathroom every 15 minutes, who is going to clean the bathrooms? Who is going to clean the desks? The teacher has to give the class," said Espinoza.

CPS Press Secretary James Gherardi said cleanliness and safety protocols such as hiring 400 additional custodians to clean facilities every day is underway. Gherardi said they will also provide every classroom and front office with HEPA air purifiers. Other protocols include face coverings, daily temperature checks, social distancing and a contact tracing staff.

Espinoza said every school and family is facing a different problem and one solution isn't enough.

"Listen to the parents. Work together with parents, teachers, the schools, the administration from the schools. I think right now its hard times and we need to work together, we are all in this together," said Espinoza.

She believes government officials such as Gov. JB Pritzker must be involved in the conversation.
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