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Chicago teachers confronting serious health risks refuse to work in-person

By Staff |
January 6, 2021
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Chicago, IL - Thousands of rank-and-file educators, clinicians and support staff want the right to continue working remotely because they or a family member are at higher risk of illness and death should they contract COVID-19. Chicago Public Schools’ response has been to refuse to allow educators to ask for an accommodation if family members at risk and to deny members with serious personal health risks like brain cancer the right to work remotely.

Half of the pre-K and special education cluster teachers in elementary and high schools scheduled to start teaching from school buildings refused to work in-person on January 4, electing instead to continue teaching students safely by remaining remote. Workers who did go in on Monday have also reported serious safety issues at their schools.

70% of Black and brown families continue to reject sending hundreds of thousands of their children back into unsafe school buildings. At the same time, a growing body of evidence shows that schools in neighborhoods with high COVID rates can increase spread of the virus. That’s a critical issue for families and educators, who fear both contracting the virus and inadvertently passing it along to elders or medically vulnerable household members.

A growing number of Local School Councils are also passing resolutions urging CPS to wait to reopen until the pandemic is under control. And more than 10,000 CTU members have pledged to oppose the mayor’s plan to reopen classrooms starting this week, with numbers increasing by the day.

Educators who returned to schools on Monday almost immediately began reporting problems with cleanliness, safety protocols, ventilation and more, with some members saying their rooms appeared not to have been cleaned since last March. Chicago Teachers Union members reported issues that ranged from no sinks or hot water sources for handwashing to lack of PPE and filthy classrooms.

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