Cicero Teachers Say Positivity Rate is Too High to Return to Classroom

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Teachers are expected to return to Cicero District 99 classrooms later this month and students could return in early November, but the teachers union said the coronavirus positivity rate in Cicero is too high for them to safely go back to school.

“We all want to be back in the classroom, but we want to do it when it’s safe for everyone,” said Rachel Esposito, a teacher and president of Cicero Council.

The teachers are citing NBC 5 Investigates exclusive data to make their case.

NBC 5 Investigates analyzed state data and found the coronavirus positivity rate in Cicero’s zip code is 12.9%. By comparison, the positivity rate in Wheaton is just 1.8%, and the rate in Downers Grove is 2.3%.  Students in school districts in those communities are returning to school this month.

“We have over 10,000 students.  We have over a thousand staff members.  Bringing them into the town of Cicero would be irresponsible,” Esposito said.

District 99 superintendent Rodolfo Hernandez said it is too early to tell if students in Cicero will be returning on Nov. 4, but he said the schools will be safe for teachers to start teaching out of classrooms while students continue remote learning.

“You cannot teach the same way as you’re teaching from your classroom. So we want to give that opportunity, for them to come in, get your classrooms up to date and at the same time, it gives us the opportunity to see what exactly what it is that we’re missing anything, how can we improve, the whole process,” Hernandez said.

Esposito said the union also has concerns about air ventilation in the buildings and contact tracing.  She said the union hopes to negotiate terms before returning.

Hernandez said nothing on the schedule has been moved up and families can choose to have their children continue learning from home, if other students return to classrooms.

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