Chicago leaders and legislators urge safer return for Chicago school students
As members of the General Assembly and City Council who represent Chicago communities, including some of us who are parents or guardians of CPS students, we submit the following recommendations to aid in maintaining the highest level of health safety as teachers, staff, administrators, and families prepare for the resumption of full-time, in-person instruction this Fall.
Our position is informed by families who have reached out to our offices registering concerns, the acknowledgment of the compounding stress especially experienced by working families and families living at the margins who are struggling to maintain efforts, and educators and support staff who have heroically kept the system together through remote, hybrid, and in-person learning over the last year and a half.
The Delta Variant of COVID-19 has demonstrated its stronger transmission among unvaccinated young people and we are deeply concerned that Chicago Public Schools’ current plan for students and staff to return to school buildings rolls back many important safety mitigation standards that can undermine the district’s objective of increasing equity for students especially in light of an ever-changing pandemic that is increasingly harming younger age groups.
Facilitating a safer return to full in-person learning that can also foster greater trust of families and educators alike, we respectfully urge CPS to take the following steps:
- Listen and act upon educator and family feedback on the significant challenges posed by simultaneous learning. For educators to juggle both remote and in-person students is a disservice to both groups from a standpoint of rarely producing positive academic outcomes and increasing unnecessary cognitive load on the educator. A potential solution could be to match the cohorts of students that have chosen the virtual academy remote option solely with educators and support staff who also are unable to teach in-person due to medical reasons.
- Do not roll back social distancing, quarantine, and contact tracing protocols at this time. Keep unvaccinated students apart more than the proposed three feet. If an outbreak occurs in a classroom or multiple classrooms in a school, all students and staff exposed to a person who is exhibiting symptoms and/or tests positive should trigger quarantine protocols, regardless of the exposed persons’ vaccination status. That would mean if there is a confirmed case in a class, all students could revert to remote learning for up to 14 days.
- Thousands of students are unaccounted for or presumed to be disengaged. We need more than our current level of outreach. Implement additional proposed student home visit programs year-round to continually re-engage families and support improved attendance. An excellent place to start would be to leverage existing partnerships with community-based organizations, social service agencies and current staff including school clerks, paraprofessionals and teachers to door-knock in their respective school communities. They are known and trusted messengers.
- Recognize that our students have gone through multiple traumas in the past two years and provide them the adequate number of qualified adult professionals for their readjustment and age appropriate transition back to in-person education. This means allocating funds for additional hiring above and beyond collective bargaining agreements of essential clinicians, special education teachers, and support personnel like paraprofessionals. These workers are the gears in the machine that will keep our students learning, thriving, and adjusting to a new reality.
Finally, we believe that the current plans for the resumption of full in-person instruction will be improved through greater collaboration with community partners and parents, as well as an updated agreement between CPS and its labor partners based on guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education. Our city’s educators and support staff are on the front lines and know first-hand the challenges that students are facing. They should be a co-equal partner in crafting a reopening plan that is feasible and sustainable to prevent burnout during these challenging times, and ultimately safe to preserve life and well-being of thousands of Chicagoans.
We are deeply concerned by the consistent testimony from educators expressing their profound frustration with the status quo and how it hinders their ability to do their job along with families’ growing demands about ensuring their children’s safety. An effective reopening plan is anchored in collaboration with all stakeholders, radical transparency, and clear and regular communication to achieve the collective goals and foster public trust. To that end, CPS needs true buy-in from and collaboration with parents, communities, and organized labor. We believe that CPS can achieve this, and stand ready to assist however we can.
Maria Hadden, Alderwoman, 49th Ward
Cristina Pacione-Zayas, State Senator, 20th District
Daniel LaSpata, Alderman 1st Ward
Brian Hopkins, Alderman 2nd Ward
Sophia King, Alderman 4th Ward
Leslie Hairston, Alderwoman 5th Ward
Rod Sawyer, Alderman 6th Ward
Anthony Beale, Alderman 9th Ward
Stephanie Coleman, Alderwoman 16th Ward
David Moore Alderman 17th Ward
Derrick Curtis, Alderman 18th Ward
Jeanette Taylor, Alderwoman 20th Ward
Michael Rodriguez, Alderman 22nd Ward
Silvana Tabares, Alderwoman 23rd Ward
Byron Sigcho Lopez, Alderman, 25th Ward
Roberto Maldonado, Alderman 26th Ward
Felix Cardona, Alderman 31st Ward
Rosanna Rodriguez Sanchez, Alderwoman 33rd Ward
Carrie Austin, Alderwoman 34th Ward
Carlos Ramirez Rosa, Alderman 35th Ward
Gilbert Villegas, Alderman 36th Ward
Emma Mitts, Alderwoman 37th Ward
Andre Vasquez, Alderman 40th Ward
Matt Martin, Alderman 47th Ward
Aaron Ortiz, State Representative, 1st District
Theresa Mah, State Representative, 2nd District
Eva-Dina Delgado, State Representative, 3rd District
Delia Ramirez, State Representative, 4th District
Lamont Robinson, State Representative, 5th District
Sonya Harper, State Representative, 6th District
Lakesia Collins, State Representative, 9th District
Kelly Cassidy, State Representative 14th District
Lindsey LaPointe, State Representative, 19th District
Edgar Gonzalez, State Representative, 21st District
Angelica Guerrero-Cuellar, State Representative, 22nd District
Kambium “Kam” Buckner, State Representative, 26th District
Justin Slaughter, State Representative 27th District
Marcus Evans, State Representative, 33rd District
Will Guzzardi, State Representative, 39th District
Jaime Andrade Jr., State Representative, 40th District
Omar Aquino, State Senator, 2nd District
Mattie Hunter, State Senator, 3rd District
Patricia Van Pelt, State Senator, 5th District
Mike Simmons, State Senator, 7th District
Ram Villivalam, State Senator, 8th District
Celina Villanueva, State Senator, 11th District
Robert Martwick, State Senator, 10th District
Robert Peters, State Senator 13th District
Jacqueline Collins, State Senator, 16th District