Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Will CPS Reopen High Schools in April?

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

This evening (March 16), Chicago Public Schools officials put
out a statement saying they and CPS high school principals "have been meeting with Chicago Teachers Union officials to establish a plan that will allow high school students and staff to safely return to schools this year. Discussions are productive and ongoing and, at this time, April 19 is our target date for HS students to return to classrooms.

"We strongly encourage all families who are interested in learning more to participate in our high school town hall tomorrow, March 17, at 5 p.m. Please register at bit.ly/HStownhall2 in advance. If you have not yet completed your intent form, which was sent directly to all CPS parents and guardians who have contact information on file, please respond as soon as your decision is made so we can plan accordingly."

In response, CTU put out this statement "to rank and file CTU
members tonight in response to this evening's CPS email to parents distorting the status of negotiations at the table:

"You may have received an email from Mayor Lori Lightfoot's CPS leadership team this evening claiming April 19 is the target date to reopen high school buildings, based on "concepts" that our union and the district have discussed.  

"Let me be clear: We have no agreement on returning to in-person learning in high schools on any date, nor will there be an agreement until we know our school buildings can reopen safely.

"The CPS email is unfortunately more unilateralism from the mayor's handpicked Board of Education — a way to publicly roll out a boilerplate plan created behind closed doors with no educator support, stakeholder engagement, parent input or student agency.

"Many high school students have spent their entire school careers in CPS. They are old enough, and deserve, to be a part of these conversations.

"Instead, we just have disappointing business as usual from the mayor and CPS, and efforts to create a more collegial, professional dynamic at the table have been met with nothing but complete misrepresentation of the status of discussions.

"So we reset.

"The mayor and CPS cannot set a date for return, then inevitably blame educators if any problems meeting that deadline arise. Instead, the district must work with parents, students, educators and all stakeholders in crafting a safe plan for high school return to in-person instruction.

"The mayor and CPS cannot publicly distort the state of our talks, while also stonewalling in providing critical data that must guide any agreement.

"For example, we have no data on how many vaccines CPS has offered educators. We do know some educators had to miss daytime appointments because the district failed to provide substitute coverage for their students, and no teacher would ever leave their class unattended.

"We know that testing protocols aren’t uniform for either students or staff in many elementary schools, while there have also been multiple breakdowns with the health screener.
CPS and the mayor continue to ignore problems with virtual learning that are negatively impacting the majority of our students who remain remote.

"The district is still not sharing data on how many students have actually returned to elementary schools, as its initial estimate of 77,000 fell to 60,000 and is surely lower than that today.

"CPS continues to fail in providing timely, up-to-date COVID data to both our union and the public.

"None of this equates to properly running a school district in a pandemic, or engaging in responsible, good faith bargaining that will land an agreement to safely reopen our high schools.

"We need safety in any reopening plan, not CPS and the mayor undermining the trust of parents, students and educators as they hide data and misrepresent talks at the bargaining table."

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