Chicago Public Schools’ first day of school Monday saw a wave of new Spanish-speaking students who arrived in Chicago after seeking asylum in the United States. Those migrant students are dealing with both trauma and language barriers. Chicago Teachers Union President Stacy Davis Gates said the CTU has been reaching out to those families to get kids enrolled in school.
“Right now, we have a group of our members who are going from shelter to police station to make sure that our young people are enrolled in the Chicago Public Schools,” Davis Gates said. “… We continue to work with community agencies all over the city to make sure that we are offering language support to families, … clothing, … toiletries, and that we’re just meeting the need. We are a part of the coalition now.”
CPS is experiencing a shortage of teachers districtwide, including a shortage of Spanish-speaking teachers.
“Our school district has not put an emphasis — over time — on making sure that we have multilingual teachers in our school communities,” Davis Gates said, “and we are feeling the pain of that right now. … What’s different this year than it has been in years past, is that there is an overall acknowledgement of the need to recruit more multilingual teachers to the Chicago Public Schools.”
Meanwhile, CPS has put its hot weather plan into effect asking all parents to send water bottles to school with their kids on Wednesday and Thursday. Outdoor sports have been canceled, and recess has been moved indoors as temperatures are expected to climb into triple digits. CPS said all classrooms have at least an air conditioning window unit to help with the oppressive heat.
Davis Gates said weather extremes needs to be considered in the long term as new schools are being designed and retrofitted. “The 10-year facilities master planning that the district is undergoing right now — we have to make a commitment to have green sustainable school facilities for our children across the city.”
“On a more immediate level, … our safety teams are going to be back up and running tomorrow to make sure that we are working hand in glove with building-level administration and central office administration to make sure that the heat that will permeate many of our buildings tomorrow is kept at bay,” Davis Gates said. “And that’s going to require our principals to respect the voices of those who are doing the work, but also the immediate response of the district to meet those needs. We’ve been assured in multiple engagements that that will happen.”