Chicago Teachers Union voices concerns as health officials announce schools could partially reopen in fall

ByEric Horng and Alexa McAdams WLS logo
Saturday, July 11, 2020
CTU voice concerns while awaiting CPS decision on reopening schools in fall
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Chicago Public Schools reopening in the fall is possible, at least partially, with some in-person instruction, if the city continues to control COVID-19 cases, Dr. Allison Arwady s

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said there could be some students in Chicago Public Schools classrooms this fall, if the city continues to control COVID-19 cases.

CPS parents and students have been anxiously awaiting word from Chicago Public School officials on whether schools would open for in-person instruction.

"I broadly feel good that if we are able to keep our outbreak basically in control, as it is here, we will be in a position to have some capacity for in-person instruction," Arwady said on a call with reporters Friday.

It's the strongest statement yet from city officials about students perhaps returning to the classroom. The district is continuing talks with the Chicago Teachers Union about what the next school year will look like.

"The statement is premature. We actually learned of that statement as we were talking through details of the negotiated plan," said CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates. "To say that we are shocked and disappointed that this is the way things are going is an understatement."

Before schools open, teachers want class size limits to ensure social distancing, as well as a promise of adequate PPE and sanitizing of schools. But the union said the city must also address inequities caused by the pandemic.

"It is hard for students to participate in instruction if they're homeless, if they're being evicted," Davis Gates said. "How are we going to adjust for devices and broadband?"

The Chicago Archdiocese releases its plan to resume in-person classes later this summer.

Not only are workers moving desks to allow greater social distancing in classrooms, but the plan asks parents to take their children's temperature before school and say there will be a second check at school.

All staff and students will wear masks, and students will stay in so-called "cohort" groups for the entire day.

However, online learning will remain an option for families who opt out of having kids return to the classroom.

One challenge that come with wearing masks at school will fall on bilingual students.

One expert says bilingual students often rely on facial expressions and learn by watching a person's lips move.

The debate between the school district and the Chicago Teachers Union comes as the city reopens more of the Riverwalk, but clamps down on how late bars can stay open.

Two weeks into Chicago's Phase 4 reopening, the city's test positivity rate is still below 5%, essentially remaining flat despite an increase in cases among 18- to 29-year-olds.

RELATED: More Riverwalk opens, city tightens bar restrictions as Chicago enters 1st weekend since quarantine order

The city rolled back restrictions for the downtown Riverwalk Friday, which can now resume its standard hours of 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The state reported more than 1,300 newly confirmed cases in Illinois and 25 additional deaths Friday as the positivity rate ticks up to 2.9%.

On the other hand, the city tightened restrictions on bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, which now have to close by midnight, though last call remains 11 p.m.