Chicago Teachers Union Urges City to Take Safety Requests Seriously
Tuesday, January 11, 2022
The Chicago Teachers Union held a day of action yesterday, outdoors and in their cars, in an effort to safely push back against returning immediately to in-person classes, with the surge of the Omicron variant hitting the area hard.
Teachers in the union have proposed a return to online learning until Jan. 18, to avoid a major outbreak. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has so far opposed returning even short-term to online learning, saying it's safer for kids to be in-person in school for social, emotional and developmental reasons.
Jesse Sharkey, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, said the educators want that, too.
"We've been in schools during a pandemic trying to educate children, and that's where we want to be again," Sharkey asserted. "But we're asking for some basic commonsense safety measures."
The union is asking for more support from the city for testing and personal protective equipment, and they say there should be procedures in place for outbreaks in schools. Monday marked the fourth day of cancelled school.
Chicago currently has an opt-in testing programs for public school students. But the union said not enough people opt in, and it would be better to have an opt-out program.
Sharkey contended when it comes to controlling outbreaks in schools, if too many educators, staff or students are out due to COVID, it is worth temporarily returning to remote learning.
"If you say school's all good and half the students don't show up, you're not doing any learning for half the students," Sharkey argued.
He pointed out if 25% of staff, 30% of elementary school students or 25% of high school students are absent due to COVID, it should be a signal for individual schools to go online, and allow cases to slow.
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