Chicago educators returning to buildings find substandard conditions days before reopening to students

By staff |
January 8, 2021
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Chicago, IL - Thousands of Chicago Public Schools teachers, clinicians and staff returning to school buildings last Monday found conditions far below the standards and promises touted by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools in preparation for opening doors to students on January 11. Throughout the week, educators submitted photos, video and detailed reports of their findings, which included no masks available upon arrival, empty hand sanitizer dispensers, hallways filled with debris from locker installation and brown water in bathroom sinks.

Many classrooms appeared as if they had not been cleaned since the district’s initial shutdown last March, while in others, window treatments remained covered in dust or with windows that would not stay open at all, despite CPS’ claim that “we worked to ensure every classroom has a working window or a mechanical ventilation system to dilute air particles that may have viruses or bacteria and allow old air to move out of the classroom.”

One school was asking workers whose rooms had no portable HEPA filters to sign a release saying they would not hold the school “liable for any health consequence of been [sic] in the building.”

A common concern was the Intellipure Compact air purifiers provided by the district, which work “best if used in spaces below 500 sq. feet,” according to the company website, but are being deployed by CPS to ‘protect’ much larger classrooms.

“CPS and the mayor are saying that they desperately want to open schools, but in many buildings, they’ve done nothing to make conditions any safer - and that’s without the threat of a pandemic,” Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Jesse Sharkey said. “Parents, students, teachers, community groups and elected officials aren’t demanding that CPS and the mayor keep buildings closed; they’re demanding that they exhaust all resources in making schools as safe as possible before reopening.”

More than half of the teachers scheduled to start teaching directly from unsafe school buildings on Monday chose to work remotely.

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