Clergy, parents call on CPS classes to remain remote until vaccine is widely distributed

“With the vaccine on the horizon, this is not the time, this is not the moment,” said the Rev. Paula Cripps-Vallejo of Humboldt Park United Methodist Church.

SHARE Clergy, parents call on CPS classes to remain remote until vaccine is widely distributed
Pre-kindergarten teacher Angela Panush reads a story to her students at Dawes Elementary in Chicago on Jan. 27, 2021.

The Chicago Teachers Union voted to refuse all in-person work until the union and Chicago Public Schools can agree on a school reopening plan.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

Several faith leaders and parents on Friday called for Chicago Public Schools to hold off on bringing kids back to classrooms and instead continue remote learning to keep everyone as safe as possible.

“With the vaccine on the horizon, this is not the time, this is not the moment,” said the Rev. Paula Cripps-Vallejo of Humboldt Park United Methodist Church. “We know it will take months to roll out the vaccine, and so, in the meantime, let’s continue to provide all the resources to our teachers to teach remotely, to teach safely.”

Tamara Drew, who has children at Ravenswood Elementary and Amundsen High School, said the prospect of going back to school is stressing out her younger son. He’s concerned for the safety of his favorite teacher, who was often ill last year.

“What if he dies?” Drew recalled her son asking.

About 62,000 students in kindergarten through eighth grade and 10,000 teachers are scheduled to return to their classrooms Monday.

The Chicago Teachers Union voted to refuse all in-person work until the union and CPS can agree on a school reopening plan. Remote learning continued while the sides negotiate.

The Rev. C.J. Hawking, a United Methodist pastor who also serves as executive director of Arise Chicago, a nonprofit workers rights organization, held a virtual news conference Friday morning.

“Last year we had an immoral and reckless federal administration in charge of the vaccine and we lost two months of effective vaccine rollout,” Hawking said. “But now we have a new administration who’s smart and committed, and so as faith leaders and parents we are saying to Chicago Public Schools: Let’s give them a chance to get the vaccines into our arms and then we can reopen the schools.”

The Rev. Juan Angel Gutierrez, of North Shore Baptist Church, said he’s witnessed pandemic deaths and doesn’t want to see any more.

“We are putting people’s lives at risk,” he said of the resumption of in-person learning. “It’s not a wise choice.”

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