CTU: Most mem­bers don’t want to go back to school with­out clear safety pre­cau­tions

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY NADER ISSA, ED­U­CA­TION RE­PORTER nissa@sun­times.com | @NaderDIssa

The Chicago Teach­ers Union said Thurs­day that in a sur­vey of its mem­bers, about 40% of the 4,800 teach­ers who re­sponded be­lieved in-class­room in­struc­tion should not re­sume un­til a COVID-19 vac­cine is widely avail­able, even if that’s a year from now.

The sur­vey is not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the union’s 26,000 mem­bers, but it of­fers a glimpse into teach­ers’ anx­i­ety as they’re faced with the prospect of re­turn­ing to schools packed with stu­dents in less than two months’ time, when the pan­demic is likely to still be rag­ing on.

The CTU sent a press re­lease to mem­bers of the me­dia de­tail­ing what the union said were the re­sults of the sur­vey that gar­nered re­sponses from about a fifth of mem­bers. But a spokes­woman would not pro­vide the un­der­ly­ing data from the ques­tion­naire.

A doc­u­ment sent to mem­bers said more than 85% of sur­vey re­spon­dents be­lieved teach­ers “should not or might not go back to work” with­out daily test­ing and tem­per­a­ture checks; a nurse and so­cial worker at ev­ery school; new safety teams ad­vis­ing school lead­ers and so­cially dis­tant trans­porta­tion op­tions for stu­dents.

More than two-thirds of re­spon­dents said in-per­son classes shouldn’t re­sume with­out masks and gloves pro­vided to ev­ery per­son who en­ters a school; daily san­i­tiz­ing of sur­faces in all build­ings; smaller class sizes and hand-wash­ing sta­tions, ac­cord­ing to the CTU.

And about three-quar­ters of those who an­swered the sur­vey said they were “not at all com­fort­able or mostly un­com­fort­able with the idea of med­i­cally com­pro­mised ed­u­ca­tors be­ing asked to work in-per­son,” the union said.

The doc­u­ment sent to mem­bers also in­cludes al­most 200 ideas sent by mem­bers for a safe re­open­ing in the fall, from us­ing in­fec­tion rates to de­ter­mine the vi­a­bil­ity of re­turn­ing to class­rooms to stag­ger­ing the start and end times for dif­fer­ent teach­ers and stu­dents.

“We’re not blind to the fact that this is a tremen­dous un­der­tak­ing, and it’s go­ing to take the re-imag­in­ing of how we de­liver pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion,” CTU Vice Pres­i­dent Stacy Davis Gates was quoted as say­ing in the news re­lease. “This pan­demic has al­ready trans­formed how we teach, and how our stu­dents learn, and now is the time for CPS and dis­tricts across the coun­try to trans­form them­selves.”

Davis Gates told the Sun-Times a day ear­lier that she finds it “hard to be­lieve” that schools will be ready in time for the fall be­cause “very ba­sic ques­tions around safety, around health, have yet to be an­swered.”

Chicago Pub­lic Schools spokes­woman Emily Bolton said a draft of the dis­trict’s guide­lines is still be­ing de­vel­oped and will be re­leased in the com­ing weeks for in­put from par­ents, teach­ers and stu­dents.

What is al­ready cer­tain, she said, is that CPS will pro­vide a “lim­ited set” of masks to all stu­dents and staff, hand san­i­tizer will need to be avail­able, school build­ings will need to be reg­u­larly cleaned and stu­dents and staff will re­ceive daily tem­per­a­ture checks. Bolton said CPS will pro­vide masks to all stu­dents and staff.

The dis­trict had trou­ble in the spring giv­ing hand san­i­tizer and clean­ing sup­plies to schools.

SUN-TIMES FILE

Mem­bers of the Chicago Teach­ers Union at­tend a rally last Oc­to­ber. A CTU sur­vey of­fers a glimpse into teach­ers’ anx­i­ety as they’re faced with the prospect of re­turn­ing to schools when the pan­demic may be rag­ing on.

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