CPS CEO commits to school-specific closure measures for COVID-19 | Chicago News

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Faced with a potential walkout from Chicago Teachers Union members, Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez said he is committed to implementing COVID-19 case measures for school and hall closures. of class.

Martinez said a “tactical” approach that recognizes the varied way the pandemic has unfolded in various communities is a better approach than a massive shift to remote learning.

Chicago students were back in their classrooms on Monday for the first time in 2022 after a two-week winter vacation break, but their return may be short-lived as Chicago Teachers Union members are set to vote Tuesday on whether to get out, citing a lack of protection against rising COVID-19 cases.

“I have been in active communication with senior management at CTU, my team has been in active communication. I’m confident we can find a solution before it comes to that (of a walkout),” Martinez said. “And the solution should really be at the school level. I think we can develop measures, where we can be nimble in a school that is struggling with COVID cases, where we have a lot of staff in quarantine. Yes, we will have to transition classrooms, perhaps the whole school, to distancing as we get through this. And then we add resources. We’re adding more COVID testing, we’re adding vaccination events at these schools, while other schools will be in a much better place. And I just think in a district our size, that’s the best way to manage.

Martinez said he believed the metrics could be finalized this week.

Members of the Chicago City Council, such as 6th Ward Ald. Roderick Sawyer said in a statement that he knows learning in school is the best, but only if it is done in a safe and responsible way and he is not sure if it happens for the moment.

“On-site testing and optional vaccination, high-quality masks, improved ventilation and evidence-based measures and procedures to manage outbreaks in schools are of the utmost importance, and at this time I am not not satisfied that these mitigations have been properly implemented,” Sawyer said.

Parent JP Paulus sent his two children, a fifth grader and a junior, to their respective South Side schools on Monday with some sense of security given they are vaccinated, but said he preferred that temporarily have the option of learning online.

“At least for the next two weeks, because like that, everyone comes back from vacation, vacation, cinema. They can then know for sure if they have COVID and it will go away and from there we can see where the kids are at, and also our city in general,” Paulus said.

Paulus said CPS was wrong to ignore the wishes of parents who want their children to be able to learn at home.

Ryan Griffin is the parent of two fully vaccinated CPS students, ages 5 and 7, and is appealing to Chicago teachers to recognize the importance of learning in school and not take it away .

“Basically, who is running the district right now? And I think the teachers’ union is arguing that it has the right and the ability to shut down a district that serves 330,000 students. It is disconcerting for us as parents to turn to public health officials for information about the pandemic. I’m not asking teachers what they think of public health advice, we’re looking to experts in this field,” Griffin said. “And in this case, the experts say the priority is in-person learning, for sure.”

Griffin said he’s grateful that Martinez is refusing to make the wholesale move to online learning.

Chicago’s top doctor, Dr. Allison Arwady, is among medical professionals who said students are likely more protected in the classroom where masks are required than on play dates and outdoors in general.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement on Monday that the CPS has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the mitigations, and is backed by science – data showing transmission in schools is low.

“We cannot ignore the sad lessons of an entire district using remote learning: significant learning loss, especially among students of color; serious difficulties for the families who had to work and could not accommodate the pupils of the school; mental trauma resulting from isolation; the absence of extracurricular activities and tens of thousands of students every day who have not participated in remote learning,” Lightfoot said. “We cannot forget that the full shift to remote learning is not a panacea and causes significant harm to students and their families. The best thing we can do for our students, staff and all of our partners at CPS is to get vaccinated. Keeping children safe in school where they can learn and thrive is what we should all be focused on.

Among CTU’s demands before returning to class on Monday was the requirement for all students and staff to test negative for COVID-19.

Before the break, the CPS distributed 150,000 tests to schools in hard-hit communities.

In a statement, the district said Monday that about 40,000 people had been discharged, and half of those were “inconclusive.”

Paulus’ children’s tests were one of them. He says his family followed the instructions. He suspects the problem is a result of how far the tests have traveled – his were mailed to South Carolina. He said that after 48 hours the samples are no longer acceptable.

Martinez also says he is frustrated with the outcome of the district’s attempt to test students before classes resume. He said the district was trying to ensure access, but it was difficult to implement the initiative with schools closed.

Martinez said the provider is working to resolve these issues and testing at the school is expanding this week.

“I’m determined to find ways to expand testing,” Martinez said. “It’s very frustrating for me to see how difficult it is to increase capacity here.”

Martinez also says 200,000 KN95 masks are on the way, the majority of which will arrive at schools by Wednesday.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @amandavinicky


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