Safe Return or No Return: Teach-Out In Belmont Cragin
As the rift between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union widens over the city’s perilous Covid-19 reopening plan, teachers all over the city are finding ways to show their solidarity with the Preschool and Special Needs teachers that have already been called back to in-person learning. They’re also staring down the barrel at returning to schools themselves, as the all-teacher return date of January 25th looms dark on the horizon.
Just this morning, teachers from all over the 60639 zip code came together for a teach-out at Fullerton and Central. They set up tables and laptops to teach a full day of virtual learning in the chilly Chicago weather, masked up and wearing their CTU red. These teachers were mostly middle school teachers, teaching 6th-8th graders.
Although they’ve not had to return to in-person learning in the first-wave of the reopening plan, they will be called back to schools on Monday. The teach-out levelled the dual message of solidarity with their colleagues already back in schools, and the chilling reminder that teaching in below-freezing temperatures would actually be safer than returning to in-person learning.
The Belmont Cragin neighborhood has been hard hit by Covid-19, and 60639 has the highest positivity rate of any zip code in the city. By sending back unvaccinated teachers, and eventually students, CPS is exacerbating the Covid-19 crisis in this already devastated neighborhood. It undercuts the city’s argument that reopening is about equity, as non-white communities have and continue to bear the brunt of positive cases and deaths in the city.
The senseless reopening plan asks teachers to risk their lives, their families’ lives, and the lives of their students just weeks before they are due to be vaccinated. This reopening plan will deepen existing healthcare inequities, and will surely impact neighborhoods like Belmont Cragin with more severity than whiter and wealthier neighborhoods. One teacher we spoke to said the following about the reopening plan, “My stress level is shooting through the roof.”
Despite it all, these courageous and determined teachers showed up this morning to teach in the bitter cold. They showed up to stand in solidarity with their colleagues and to make it clear that they will not back down. More teachers plan on arriving this afternoon to teach alongside their fellow teachers.
Last night, CTU delegates took a vote which determined that CPS teachers would refuse to return to schools on Monday, instead teaching virtually and safely from home. CPS has already emailed teachers that they must show up to school on Monday. The union is continuing to advise teachers to remain at home. If this action leads to a mass lockout of CPS teachers from their virtual learning platforms, then the union will be forced into a strike.
IPMM stands in solidarity with our teachers, and we will push for their health and safety. We believe that this reopening plan is unsafe, and must be reversed. Teachers want to teach and they want to teach safely. They care deeply about their students and the safety of their classrooms. Until every CPS teacher and all staff is vaccinated, virtual learning is the safest and only option.
Photo Credit: Abel Arciniega for IPaintMyMind
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