The Chicago Teachers Union is preparing for an emergency meeting as they await a decision on whether Chicago Public Schools will start the academic year with a hybrid learning plan as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
According to a source, the House of Delegates, which includes one union leader from each school, plans to meet next week to determine if they will call for a strike vote.
The news comes one day after the union held a car caravan to call for remote learning when school starts after Labor Day. The caravan traveled to Chicago's Loop, with dozens of cars honking their horns and circling downtown office buildings to demand education equity and remote learning.
Last month, CPS launched a survey to gather feedback on its draft reopening framework, which includes a mix of remote learning and in-person instruction. The district asked families, students and staff to submit feedback by July 31, with the plan set be finalized and released in early August.
"Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our students and staff, and Chicago Public Schools won't open its doors on September 8 if public health officials don't deem it safe to do so," CPS said in a statement. "We continue to gather community feedback and closely monitor the public health data before making any final determinations for what learning will look like this fall."
According to CTU leaders, Chicago Public Schools' hybrid plan for the fall "falls short on safety." Leaders said CPS has not put enough money into cleaning and janitorial improvements.
“Providing us 40,000 tubs of sanitizing wipes? So I get two tubs of wipes? That might get me through a few lunch periods," Erin Lynch, an art and special education teacher at CPS, said during a car caravan last month. "We ask that CPS finally put students' and staff's safety and health first."
CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said that city officials appear to care more about protecting bar patrons and fitness enthusiasts. She added that Friday’s restrictive action on those businesses is more stringent than this September’s plan for pods of 15 kids.
“You see the heat maps of cases. Our positivity rate is going up in Illinois -- no playgrounds, no indoor dining. We have that and yet we are talking about opening schools in this moment? It just seems completely upside down," Gates said.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the decision should be made based on the local outbreak.
"It depends on what your local data looks like and if the outbreak is broadly in control," Arwady said. "You know, I'm a pediatrician and I feel pretty strongly that there are benefits for in person education, especially for younger children who don't learn well from screens, and all of the social emotional benefits and all of the other things that we've talked about. But it all comes back to what that local data looks like. And you know, plus all of obviously all of the input from stakeholders and decision making there, but on the science side, my biggest question is what does your local outbreak look like? But where people ask me, you know, I have an option for example, I personally am in favor of having children in school."
Arwady noted that if a child wears a mask and follows social distancing while in school she does "not think the risk of spread is significant."