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Teachers union again demands beefed-up COVID-19 safety protocols

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten was in town Wednesday to offer her support.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten speaks to students at the New River Middle School, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten was in Chicago Wednesday offering support for the Chicago Teachers Union.
AP file

Chicago Teachers Union leaders — accompanied by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten — renewed their call Wednesday for beefed-up safety measures at schools across the district.

For months, the union has been demanding — in writing — a set of protocols from the administration that would include widespread testing for COVID-19, as well as on-site vaccine clinics.

“The money is there. You see the motivation is there. What’s not there is an administration that wants to work with the teachers and the students to get this done,” Weingarten said, standing outside Englewood STEM High School on the South Side.

Union leaders on Wednesday highlighted the recent COVID-19 death of a CPS parent on the West Side. The parent, Shenitha “Angel” Curry, died last week. Curry’s sister has said that Curry, who was unvaccinated, told her in her final days that she was sure her illness stemmed from Jensen Elementary School. Curry’s daughter was one of 205 students — more than half the student body at Jensen — directed to quarantine this month because of exposure to eight confirmed virus cases.

“We want a reassurance from the district about when they are going to say it’s time to clean the school, it’s time to test everybody, it’s time to make sure the environment is safe,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said.

Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner at the Chicago Department of Public Health, this week asked for patience while the city investigates Curry’s death. But she also said her staff had found no breaks in protocols at Jensen.

The CPS administration has claimed since the start of the pandemic that there has been little, if any, in-school transmission of the virus. The district also insists it is following U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

But Sharkey reiterated Wednesday the union’s demand that the safety protocols be spelled out in writing.

“We are not going be quiet about it,” Sharkey said. “The district has the resources …. There is a moral, compelling argument for it and we are going to continue to expect it from our school leaders and our new CEO, from the mayor of this city.”

Sharkey said, among other things, that the district’s promised COVID-19 testing has so far only been carried out among a “small sliver” of students.