Students, Parents Hang in Balance Amid CPS, CTU Dispute

As the standoff between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union drags on, students and their parents are caught in the middle.

On Monday, Black parents and community members hosted a press conference to demand an equitable plan for students to return to in-person learning.

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“Right now there is an achievement gap that Black students are facing with reading and math, this was before the pandemic. So having students out of school when they were struggling before the pandemic, and struggling now with the pandemic,” CPS parent Natasha Dunn told “Chicago Tonight” on Wednesday.

Dunn, who spoke at Monday’s press conference and is the parent of a sixth grader, said that like other African American students, her daughter is struggling with remote learning. 

“We just can’t wait. At the end of the day our children need to be in school because the longer they’re out of school the harder it’s going to be for them to catch up,” Dunn said.

Among other challenges surrounding remote learning, not all parents are able to stay home with their children.

Willie Preston and his wife, who are also CPS parents, can’t work from home. 

“We have six children and the truth is it’s very difficult to find people to come and babysit and help out and monitor our children’s situation,” Preston said at Monday’s press conference. 

Another group of CPS parents held a virtual press conference Wednesday morning, calling on Mayor Lori Lightfoot to scrap the district’s plan to return to in-person learning.

Flor Dimas, who has children in third grade and 12th grade at CPS, doesn’t want to send her kids to school. They live in a multigenerational household, and her third grader goes to a school in an affluent area, she said. Some students have traveled out of state and out of the country — they would be returning for in-person learning.  

“I honestly just don’t trust CPS’ plan because they put this plan together without consulting the people who will be responsible for opening the schools, and much less the parents,” Dimas said. “They didn’t take into consideration whether or not all families had access to emails to take the surveys they sent out, and they certainly didn’t take into consideration that there could have been language barriers.”

Monica Espinoza, a CPS parent on the Northwest Side, said she won’t send her kids to school because her family lives near a coronavirus hot spot, and she wants to protect her children and their teachers. 

“At this point we don’t feel the teachers are safe or happy, and we’re not safe and we’re not happy,” Espinoza said. “Teachers are human. Even though they’re heroes, they’re human as well.”

Espinoza said her children’s school buildings are not equipped with the resources they need to allow for a safe return to in-person schooling. 

“Our community is underfunded, under-resourced so who can come to us in our face and look straight at our face and tell us you have all of the resources you need to keep your students safe and healthy,” she said. “There are other schools that have newer buildings with better equipment, I believe that. It doesn’t happen here in our community.”

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