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CTU concerned about ‘gaps’ in CPS COVID-19 safety protocols

The union is concerned about everything from managing crowds in schools to the rollout of COVID-19 testing.

Stacy Davis Gates, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, speaks during a press conference outside CICS ChicagoQuest High School, at 1443 N. Ogden Ave., to demand that Chicago Public Schools opens virtually in the fall, Wednesday morning, July 22, 2020.
Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said she’s worried about Chicago Public Schools’ gaps in keeping students and staff safe from COVID-19.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

With the first week of the fall term more than half over, the Chicago Teachers Union on Thursday accused Chicago Public Schools of “duct-taping” together COVID-19 safety measures.

The union told reporters at a news conference outside Barton Elementary School on the South Side Thursday that there are major problems with everything from the rollout of COVID testing in schools to managing crowds in buildings to replacing “filthy” air filters.

In a news release this week, the union said next steps could include “escalating actions.”

At the news conference, CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates refused to specify what those actions might entail, instead saying the union planned to return to the bargaining table with CPS.

In a statement, CPS spokesman James Gherardi said they were following the experts on bringing kids back to classrooms.

“Our protocols are based on guidance from health officials and science — there is no appetite for escalating tensions after immense uncertainty regarding reopening,” he said.

“With teacher attendance at pre-pandemic levels on the first day of school, it’s clear that our educators are overwhelmingly ready to be back with their students. This year no doubt requires more adjustments, for which the district and schools have been preparing for months,” he said. “As a result, our schools are and remain safe. We will continue to work with the CTU in good faith and keep parents informed of any notable updates.”

The union says there are about 300 students and school employees across the district who are in quarantine, but the district has not said what it might take to close an individual school or the entire district.

“As of today, in this moment, we don’t have an agreement on that,” Gates said.

Gates also said the union has been getting reports from staff of students “shoulder to shoulder” in lunchrooms.

“The expectation should not be that we are duct-taping layered mitigation in our schools,” she said.

Gates is calling for better cooperation between the CTU and the district on COVID-19 mitigation efforts.