CPS Has Begun Reopening- But Teachers Disagree


David Furst, Writer

In Chicago, public schools are tentatively reopening, except the strangest thing is happening: The schools appear to be opening with or without teachers in the building to teach. This may come as a surprise to some, but to myself and many others the division between Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Teachers Union is tragic but unfortunately expected. The Union struck in late 2019 over contract disagreements, and the issue of reopening is shaping up to follow a similar path. Of course a work stoppage is a horrible inconvenience at the very best, and I have every hope and belief that this disagreement will be resolved before it ever comes to a strike. In the meantime, though, let’s talk about how we even got here in the first place.


COVID-19 is very bad. Recently, it seemed to be coming down from “very bad” to “not so bad”, but more recently it has reacquired the rank of “really quite bad”. The city of Chicago, according to Illinois’ reopening plan and guidelines, is currently in Tier 2 which means among other things that gatherings are highly encouraged to be limited. Unfortunately, this is happening around the same time that CPS is pushing to get students back in schools. To this end, they have taken many steps to make being in school as safe as possible such as improving ventilation in the buildings. The disagreement between CTU and CPS stems from the standards of both parties: CTU says the classrooms and schools are simply unsafe to return to, while CPS insists it has spent large amounts of time and money to make the schools safe.


The worst part of all this is how easy this conflict was to predict. CPS themselves took a survey of many groups of people on the topic of returning to school in fall of 2020. Of all the groups surveyed, the group that responded with the single highest percentage of “No” when asked if they would return in the fall was teachers, with a resounding 69.6%. Admittedly this survey was asking about reopening in the fall, but since then the pandemic really doesn’t seem to have gotten better. It followed very reasonably that teachers would still feel the same way as they did in the summer when asked this question.


Ultimately I hope for CTU and CPS to agree on what is considered safe, for both the professionals’ and the students’ sakes. I miss in person school, but I as much as anyone else would advise being cautious about reopening and making very sure that schools are safe. A strike would be an awful outcome from an already miserable problem, but I have high hopes that everybody can work together against the common threat of the pandemic to a safe and reasonable solution for everyone.