The latest proposal to Mayor Lightfoot addresses issues around testing, contact tracing, and health metrics, to return students to learning
The Chicago Teachers Union today released its latest proposal in an effort to end the mayor’s lockout of more than 20,000 teachers, clinicians, paraprofessionals, and other educators, and return students to learning.
Today’s proposal comes on the heels of reports yesterday that the mayor’s Chicago Public Schools leadership team for weeks rejected SHIELD testing and mitigation support from Governor J.B. Pritzer and the State of Illinois.
The proposal would have Chicago public school educators in buildings next week handing out devices that are currently warehoused and unused, signing up students for COVID-19 testing as they pick up those devices, and begin remote education Wednesday, Jan. 12 through Friday, Jan. 14, as the current surge worsens.
In-person learning would resume on Jan. 18, unless the Chicago Department of Public Health or the State of Illinois determine that public health conditions are not safe for in-person school at that time, in which case in-person learning shall resume when the CDPH and the State of Illinois deem it appropriate.
Despite the fact that school districts across the state and nation are taking an opt-out approach to COVID-19 testing, Mayor Lightfoot has called the COVID-19 nasal swab test an “invasive medical procedure.” The Union is proposing that CPS implement a COVID-19 screening test program that allows students to opt-out, and that, on a randomized basis, tests at least 10 percent of the student and staff population every week at every school and CPS worksite. This is described in the “Testing Recommendations by Level of Community Transmission” in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Prevention.
The CTU proposal also tackles determining when there is widespread COVID-19 infection in an in-person learning environment. If more than 25 percent of staff are absent due to COVID-19, individual schools would revert to temporary virtual learning. Individual schools would also pause in-person learning when 30 percent or more of elementary school children and more than 25 percent of high school students are out with COVID-19.
Mayor Lightfoot’s current proposal would not pause in-person learning until half of the school is out with COVID-19 — long after school populations had fallen below the number of adults in the building to safely supervise students.
The district’s current contact tracing procedures have been riddled with problems, including delays of a week or more to notify educators and parents of positive cases. The Union’s proposal would put contact tracing for students directly into the hands of trusted school personnel, setting up teams of educators at each school who would work part-time to take responsibility for contact tracing.
Dozens of state legislators wrote to Mayor Lightfoot on Friday, and again on Saturday, urging her to accept assistance, and expand capacity to stand-up vaccine clinics with extended hours in more schools beyond the four static sites, in addition to:
- Adopting an adaptive pause to launch remote learning and develop mutually agreed upon safety metrics
- Leveraging community partners to increase participation of CPS families who opt-in to regular COVID-19 testing or make weekly COVID-19 testing required like 34 other school districts across the state
- Ensuring sufficient distribution of N95 or KN95 masks for students, staff, and educators. The Union has been calling for N95 masks for students and staff for weeks.