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CPS teacher lockouts are disruptive for students, parents say

CTU President Jesse Sharkey said a majority of CPS families are choosing to stay with remote learning, yet teachers are required to return to buildings or risk being locked out. Meanwhile, CPS nurses protested the reopening plan at City Hall Thursday night.

CPS nurse Dennis Kosuth and about a dozen other nurses with the Chicago’s Teachers Union protested outside City Hall Thursday night.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Every pre-kindergarten family at one Pilsen elementary school chose to continue with remote learning this semester, but parents say their children are now without a regular teacher, who was locked out of the virtual classroom this week for failing to show up to her classroom.

“We have an excellent pre-K teacher there, Ms. Estela, who has worked very hard to create routines and classroom community with 4-year-olds virtually since March,” Andrea McGehee, a parent from Whittier Elementary School, said during a news conference Thursday.

The school's pre-kindergarten teacher was locked out of the system this week and unable to prepare a substitute, McGehee said, creating a “disruptive” environment for the students.

“We have 4-year-olds wondering who is this stranger today?” McGehee said.

About 6,000 children — all of them preschoolers and children with complex disabilities — were welcomed back in CPS classrooms Monday for the first time in 300 days, along with 1,200 teachers and 1,700 clinicians.

Earlier in the week, nearly 150 employees who refused to return to their buildings were informed they were being shut out of their CPS Google Classroom accounts and would not be paid. On Wednesday, CPS said that number was down to 100 workers.

Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey said a majority of CPS families, like McGehee’s, are choosing to stay remote, yet about three-quarters of employees are being called back to buildings, sometimes teaching to classrooms with just one student.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Sharkey said Thursday. “We're going to keep working at the table trying to get a solution, and I hope we’re able to do that because the alternative is not a good one.”

Araceli Vega, a parent from McCormick Elementary School, said she and a group of families have decided their students will attend class but will not participate until their teacher’s lockout is lifted.

“We turned off microphones, we turned off cameras,” Vega said. “This will continue until our teachers are brought back.”

Later, nurses who work at CPS schools protested outside City Hall against what they believe are unsafe conditions “for students, their families [and] the wider community.” Then they delivered a letter signed by 164 nurses to a mayor’s office representative.

“To put it clearly: nurses who work in schools have not been asked to formulate CPS’s plan, but we are expected to carry it out — despite our objections,” the letter said.

Contributing: Nader Issa