Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) is going ahead with a plan to bring back some elementary and special-needs students on Monday. Teachers who are expected to return but don’t will have their pay withheld. Lightfoot has said that schools have taken precautions so that they can reopen safely, and that students must get back to in-person learning because it is superior to online schooling.
The Chicago Teachers Union, which has led two strikes over the past decade, is opposed to the reopening, saying that coronavirus positivity rates for Chicago overall are way too high and are rising. Some teachers who returned to classrooms last week to prepare for school said they found unacceptable conditions for a safe return of students, including an insufficient number of masks and unsatisfactory ventilation systems.
Big-city school districts nationwide have made different decisions about when and how to reopen campuses closed since the pandemic was declared in March. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) ordered all school districts to open or face the loss of millions of dollars in state funding.
In California, districts are making their own decisions based on coronavirus positivity rates. The Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest school system in the country, has remained closed amid a soaring positivity rate. Some other large urban districts have made plans to reopen, only to postpone them as the rate of infections has risen.
When Chicago teachers went on strike for 11 days in 2019, one of the demands was that each school in the country’s third-largest school district have a nurse. Chicago officials said they would hire more nurses over a period of years to ensure a full-time nurse in every school.
That hasn’t happened, and the number of certified school nurses — medial professionals who can help treat chronic illnesses in individual students and work on health measures for all students — is fewer than 120. The district directly operates 514 schools. There are also 234 other kinds of nurses categorized as health-service nurses who are not trained in the same way that certified school nurses are.
The nurses said in their statement that although many children who are infected with the coronavirus are asymptomatic, that is not sufficient reason to allow schools to reopen.
“Many say that children are not as affected by this disease,” it says. “The illnesses and deaths of family members from COVID-19 affects everyone, and it is dismissive to state otherwise. The mutant form of the virus, B.1.1.7, has arrived in the United States, and it is a matter of time before it reaches Chicago, if it hasn’t already. This strain has been demonstrated to be more contagious, and children in the United Kingdom are now testing positive at higher rates.”
Here’s the full statement:
Statement by Chicago Public School nursesAs the undersigned nurses employed by Chicago Public Schools (CPS), we wish to go on record as being opposed to the current plan of resuming in-person learning on January 11, as we do not believe it is safe for students, their families, or the wider community.The Chicago Teachers Union went on strike in October 2019 and a main demand was a nurse in every school every day. Our commitment to the health of our school communities is clear. CPS is still far away from having a nurse in every building every day.COVID-19 has taken a terrible toll on everyone. Students, families, and educators have all been affected. For the African-American and Latinx communities, there has been disproportionate suffering. It is little wonder that two thirds of families from these backgrounds have opted to continue remote learning. Chronic racist health inequities underlie these disparities, and CPS arguing that “equity” needs to drive students back into unsafe buildings makes no sense.We understand that remote learning is far from ideal, but the conditions of this pandemic are not of anyone’s choosing. Many of us are CPS parents ourselves, and all wish to be back in school buildings, but the simple fact is that it is currently not safe to do this.As of January 3, positivity rates for Chicago overall are 9.2% and trending upward. In some zip codes, such as 60639 and 60632, the positivity rates are over 17%. Deaths from across Illinois have been over 100 a day, and went up following Thanksgiving. It is reasonable to expect that these dire statistics will continue to worsen following the Winter Break.Many say that children are not as affected by this disease. The illnesses and deaths of family members from COVID-19 affects everyone, and it is dismissive to state otherwise. The mutant form of the virus, B.1.1.7, has arrived in the United States, and it is a matter of time before it reaches Chicago, if it hasn’t already. This strain has been demonstrated to be more contagious, and children in the United Kingdom are now testing positive at higher rates.While it may be the case that a child will recover more easily from such an infection, consider the psychological impact on them should a family member fall ill, if this disease is brought home from school. Multiple CPS buildings where people have been going in to work already, have had positive cases of COVID-19, and this is before students and staff have returned.CPS’s current plan to handle students who are suspected of having COVID-19 is to have them kept in a “care room” until a parent can pick them up. This area will not be staffed by a nurse or any licensed healthcare worker, but by whomever the district can find. We have been told that training for these “care room” attendants is under development, but we have yet to see it rolled out.Furthermore, for students who have significant health needs, such as breathing treatments for asthma, or suctioning of a tracheostomy, we have not seen any written plan of how to carry out such procedures. In hospitals, these must be done in specially designed rooms, because the risk of spreading disease is too great.To put it clearly: nurses who work in schools have not been asked to formulate CPS’s plan, but we are expected to carry it out - despite our objections.We are not making this statement lightly or without careful consideration. Our professional license demands that we advocate on behalf of our communities, which is why we have chosen to speak directly to parents. Parents, please consider our position and our request that you carefully think about the risks involved with sending your preschool or cluster child into buildings on January 11. We are also asking that the wider community support us in our advocacy to work as full partners in designing a safe reopening within CPS.Adia AndersonAdrienne TorresAlana PorterAlexis ArguelloAlicia GambleAlicia IveyAlisha MorrisAmber BradfordAndrea A. RiveraAndrea SantellaAndrea WilliamsonAndreina MelesioAngela MorelloAnne KulikAria PhippsAshley McGheeAtinuke AjibolaAudrea HamiltonAudrey BurchettAyesha QaadirBarbara A. JacksonBenna BellBeryl Ross-RandallBetzua RubioBeverly R WoodsBonnie johnsonBrandon MajorBria WilsonCamelia OdorheanCamellia NoushCarol ReillyCassandra KowalczykCassandra WaltonCatherine JohnsonChassidy JenkinsCheryl KramerChinita DillardChristiana Esguerra GaviolaChristina ScelsaChristine BlustChristine R. KurysCihomara Rubio AriasColleen DaltonConstance NolanCourtney HansonDana RosalesDanielle MasonDebra AdamsDebra MooreDebra StarksDennis KosuthDiane BecerraDonna L. Garrett-LouryEbony MorganEbony WaltonElizabeth HaloulosElonda VannEmma ManningErica McIntoshEvelyn ThomasFrank EjechiGenesis PerezGenevieve KelleyGina CannellaGloria SalveyGrace L. HernandezHelen Ramirez-OdellIman MatthewsJanet ClarkJanet James BensonJanice DeChalusJessica CarrascoJessica V CortesJoan LipschutzJocelyn HendricksJohanna E MagallonJuanita BrownKainos JacksonKatherine WhitakerKathleen O'Rourke-PatrickKathleen WilsonKathy GarrettKatrina CaruthersKelly BrownKhatara JohnsonKimberly M. DearthKysha DoyleLatosha NelsonLinda FrancoisLindsay MartinLisa BangsLorena P. RamirezLorraine ColemanMarcina AdamsMargaret RamirMarianne GallowayMaribel LanderosMarion BranchMarisol MaldonadoMarquisha WillisMary Ann CantoreMary SoedingMeagan GossMegan PacenteMelinda SvastisaleeMelissa HazzardMiriam Bahena-CardonaMonica DiaconeasaNayshon BondNga NguyenNikeisha SalasNorma GillOdily DeSouza-LeonOmar CattanPat RencherPatricia PulliamPatricia RobertsPR Sanders-HayesRocio CamposRosemary GrossleySabrina CoulterSamantha ZackowitzSandra BeckSarah McFaddenSarah SchroederShaundra ErvinSheila ClancyShundra RobinsonSongbee KimTanya TomlinTara WinterTecoma HillTesia MiltonTiffany EschmannTiffany WardTonya WainwrightTracy Listermann-NormanValeda M. ShaverVeronica AtariguanaViridiana CarrilloWonswaylia McThuneXujie TanYamesse VieraYolanda A. GoodloeYolanda Starling As of Friday January 8th the positivity rate is 10.7% and rising Staff were emailed on Friday January 8th to review a 39 minute video, the day before pre-K and cluster students return