Most Chicago Public Schools students have now been back in the classroom for over a week, but some parents, teachers and students say they don’t feel safe from COVID-19 in school buildings — and they’re demanding access to remote learning.
Other parents say in-person learning is necessary to make up for the year of learning lost to the pandemic.
Nolberto Casas, a CPS parent who has a child in pre-K and another in first grade, says his older child has fallen behind.
“I picked up my son yesterday from first grade, his teacher told me he needs to work on his mathematics. He needs to work on his writing. He needs to work on his spelling,” said Casas. When he questioned the teacher whether his learning suffered during the pandemic, she said, “Unfortunately, yes. It seems that students are disadvantaged because (of) that time that was lost in in-person instruction.”
Brenna O’Brien, a leader of the group CPS Sick-Out, helped organize a demonstration near Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s home Monday. O’Brien earned her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction and has a second grader and a fourth grader in CPS. She wants the district to expand remote learning options in addition to the mask and vaccine mandates.
“We’re very happy that there is a mask mandate and that they’re encouraging vaccines for the children, that they’re making sure that the teachers are vaccinated, but we know that there are still positive cases all over the district,” said O’Brien. “There are kids that were in quarantine on the very first day. And so after the protest yesterday, I came home and I got a letter that there was a positive case in my child’s school.”
“It’s not just about the safety mitigations,” O’Brien said. “It’s that there are positive cases happening in schools all over the district. And we would really like for them to have the testing in place that they promised would be September 1st and it’s still not in place.”