CPS teacher tests positive for COVID-19, forcing principal into quarantine during 1st week back

Meanwhile, nearly 150 teachers were locked out of teaching remotely after refusing to show up to schools for in-person learning.

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Elementary teacher Melissa Vozar sits outside of Suder Elementary in solidarity with pre-K educators forced back into the building at 2022 W Washington Blvd in West Town, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Staff members returning to McCutcheon Elementary last week instantly noticed problems just days before students were expected to return to the classroom.

“Two of the classrooms set to receive students had not passed the ventilation assessment by CPS’ standards, teachers found rooms that had not been fully cleaned since March and there was no all-staff meeting or clear instruction on how to receive the students,” social studies teacher Jenny Delessio–Parson said at a news conference hosted by the Chicago Teachers Union Tuesday.

Then a staff member tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, which has forced the school’s principal, assistant principal and four others into quarantine in a hectic return to in-person teaching for the first time during the pandemic.

The staff was disturbed that Chicago Public Schools officials didn’t notify anyone about the case until Sunday, Delessio-Parson said. Though those in close contact with the teacher weren’t back in school when students returned this week, they wish they could have sought testing or protected their families sooner over the weekend.

“We didn’t receive notification about that initial case from CPS until Sunday evening, and at that point, we had other staff members exhibit symptoms. And Monday, we had staff members come into the building who later left because they also began to exhibit symptoms,” Delessio–Parson said.

CPS spokeswoman Emily Bolton said the employee who tested positive was last in the school last Wednesday. The district “was made aware” of the potential case on Friday then confirmed it Saturday before “notifications were provided in a timely manner”to close contacts. The school was disinfected, and there was no pause in school operations, she said.

“There is no evidence of school-based transmission and numerous studies have shown that schools have not been major sites of COVID-19 transmission,” Bolton said.

147 employees shut out of accounts, not paid

About 6,000 children — all of them preschoolers and children with complex disabilities — returned to CPS classrooms Monday for the first time in 300 days. They were joined by 1,200 teachers and 1,700 clinicians, accounting for three-quarters of employees who were supposed to be in schools.

But nearly 150 employees who didn’t show up were informed they were being shut out of their CPS Google Classroom accounts and wouldn’t be paid.

That’s why when Linda Perales’ students logged in for class Tuesday, she wasn’t there.

Perales, a special education teacher at Corkery Elementary School, continued to teach remotely last week rather than follow CPS orders and return to her classroom.

“I know returning to school is unsafe because we know that our cluster students cannot wear their masks all day,” Perales said at the CTU news conference. “We have been told that we need to build their tolerance to wearing the mask, which implies that they cannot wear the mask and this is an airborne virus, and not wearing masks puts everyone at risk.”

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“The frustrating part is that we feel like we aren’t being listened to,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. “We feel like we are raising reasonable concerns.”

Quinton Washington, a music teacher at Sadlowski Elementary School, said, “It is amazing to me that CPS is requiring those of us who were working remotely to come into the building, but substitute teacher coverage is being done remotely.”

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