Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union have been battling all week over whether it’s safe to have kids in the classroom as COVID-19 cases rise. The dispute has led to classes being canceled for three days as teachers refuse to work in-person, and the district refuses to go remote.
We spoke with several CPS parents to get their perspective and reaction.
“I do believe that we are in a critical state in terms of how the pandemic is rolling out. I do understand that people are afraid, but the problem I have is that on a school by school basis, not all schools have problems with their mitigation strategies. There are schools like for example my daughter’s school where I believe and I feel safe for her going into school,” said Natasha Dunn, a CPS parent and Co-founder of Black Community collaborative, a group of organizations dedicated to addressing issues impacting Black families, “The problem I have is the fact that we have a complete and total shutdown of the system and that’s just not fair for every parent and every student.”
CTU members voted Tuesday to teach remotely temporarily amid the surge of COVID-19 cases in Chicago. Members proposed taking a two-week pause from in-person learning after winter break.
“I’ll be honest, I think that what CTU has done, I agree with it. 100%. I think we’re in a pandemic. We’re looking at the numbers rise. Why take the risk? Right? Why not take a two-week timeframe? Everyone’s coming off of a break right now, why not take that time to get all of the resources you need for schools to be successful? Why not take the time to give families the opportunity if they contracted COVID or maybe going through some things themselves to get it together,” said CPS parent Joseph Williams, “Do I believe our children deserve to be in school? Absolutely. But I believe that they also need to be in school and be safe.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Pedro Martinez say switching to remote learning, even temporarily, could lead to more learning loss for students, but some parents say the district just needs to do a better job with virtual schooling.
“The problem is CPS has not come into the millennium and learned how to pivot like everyone else, especially schools in the suburban districts who are able to pivot and do remote learning and do it well because I’ve seen it firsthand. I have one in CPS and one in outside placement, and CPS needs to step up to that level.” said CPS parent Kalaveeta Mitchell, who says her child performed well during remote learning.
As the standoff between CPS and CTU continues, parents are also demanding that their voices be part of the conversation. One group of parents is suing the Chicago Teachers Union to get their kids back in class.