Dozens of CTU teachers converged upon City Hall Monday afternoon as part of a caravan meant to express their refusal to physically go back into the classroom until is safe to do so.
As of now, Chicago Public Schools will be opening for modified in-person learning next month. But the city's teachers' union wants that plan scrapped for an all-remote model.
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Teachers will join activists from New York to Los Angeles Monday to demand adequate classroom safety measures as schools all over the country debate reopening.
In Chicago, CTU will form a car caravan and head for City Hall before noon.
City teachers argue conditions aren't safe enough for in person learning here as we continue seeing a steady uptick of COVID-19 cases.
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CTU President Jesse Sharkey argues the reopening framework put out by Chicago Public Schools is no match for the city's newly resurgent spread of COVID-19.
"It's not about having enough hand washing stations," Sharkey said. "It's going in the wrong direction. Numbers are going up."
"It's not appropriate to open in person learning in an environment with raising contagion," said Sharkey.
"We're going to be in classrooms six feet apart. I cannot do small groups with my students. I cannot have one-on-one time with my students. They can't hug each other. They can't shake each other's hands," said Andrea Parker, a teacher. "They can't be too close to each other. They can't share pencils. They can't sit close and share ideas. It's not going to be what you think it is."
The teacher's union demanded an all-remote start to the new school year comes as Chicago Public Schools continues to gather feedback and work on a final re-opening plan, one that as of now offers parents the choice between a hybrid model that gives children at least some classroom instruction, or an all-remote learning experience.
In Logan Square Monday, a group composed mainly of parents and students stood firmly on the side of teachers.
The Northwest Side neighborhood is part of the 60639 zip code and one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, with an infection rate that continues to hover above 8%.
"Our children are not an experiment. And we're not okay with them going back to school. We are okay with them having a remote learning which is of quality," said Monica Espinoza, from the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.
CPS refused to be pressured into a decision, and said Monday that while they will not return to the classroom on September 8 unless they believe it is safe to do so.
CPS said in a statement, "Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our students and staff, and Chicago Public Schools won't open its doors on September 8 if public health officials don't deem it safe to do so. We continue to gather community feedback and closely monitor the public health data before making any final determinations for what learning will look like this fall."
The union has called on the mayor and CPS to focus on the best possible remote learning plan instead of trying to make a hybrid model work, which CTU argues puts students and staff at risk.
The union specifically called for ensured high-speed internet and devices for all students, especially those in underserved communities.
Chicago Public Schools discuss reopening plan at virtual town hall
In laying out its initial reopening framework. CPS said it has made large PPE investments, created pod system that should help with contact tracing and that it will have temperature checks at school. But CTU said the plan isn't thorough enough.
The timing of this rally significant because parents have until Friday to decide if they're opting in to the proposed hybrid CPS reopening plan, so this is one more thing for them to consider as they make that choice.
No final determination will be made until it is closer to the start of the school year, officials said.