CHICAGO (CBS) – Some Chicago public school students plan to leave classes on Friday, to protest the decision to resume in-person learning after the district entered into a COVID-19 safety agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union.
The students who organized the walkout said they were not asked to contribute to discussions about their academic and personal needs in order to feel safe returning to classes in person during Omicron’s outbreak of the pandemic.
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The Chicago Public Schools Radical Youth Alliance, or Chi-Rads, has hosted the walkout, which will begin at 12:30 p.m., and will include a press conference at 1:30 p.m. at CPS headquarters.
“Young people have never been meaningfully included in any conversation about safety during the pandemic,” organizers said in a press release announcing the walkout. “District leaders, administrators and elected officials systematically make decisions about our security, assuming they know what we need when they don’t. Adultism was rampant in the CPS before the pandemic and has only worsened, forcing a major divide between students and the care CPS is forced to provide. Although our bodies are at risk under dangerous conditions, we are pushed to the back of these conversations. “
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Some of the things they are demanding include better contact tracing, banning fans from sporting events, and providing a full-time therapist for 30 students.
“The failures of this system have the greatest impact on our lives. Young people should not settle for the bare minimum or anything less than what our communities deserve. Young people are getting up on Friday to refuse to let the current conditions of our schools and the lack of COVID-19 safety protocols continue. We have solidarity with ourselves, with our own safety and with our own health. We protect each other, we keep each other loved, ”said the organizers.
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See below for the full list of requests:
- CPA should fund support outside of our academia. Many aspects of our daily life prevent some students from receiving a quality education in inequitable structures and oppressive systems within the city. The CPS, as an entity, should recognize the rights it guarantees to all students and put into practice by implementing the following:
- Collections of coats, food and resources / Mutual aid projects.
- Fully funded CTA to all students.
- Reload the EBT cards.
- One full-time therapist / psychologist for 30 students.
- Maintain quality building and facility maintenance (HVAC, plumbing, cleaning, hot water). To hold schools accountable for this, there should be health and quality inspection checks performed by a new CPS maintenance office. All schools requesting support in all matters concerning their facilities should obtain full funding for this.
- Much like the Covid Relief packages, students are expected to receive covid relief allowances to help cover the needs families go through during these times beyond food. Many families are living paycheck after paycheck and this pandemic is affecting people’s ability to work; which unfortunately affects our ability to live.
- Understanding how this pandemic is affecting our ability to learn CPS should fund the following:
- Provide each student with their own personal laptop. Make sure it comes with the latest version of the operating system they are running, portable (12-14 inches), 4 GB of RAM, 512 GB of storage, and at least 8 hours of battery life. Students should be able to keep it for their entire duration as students, virtual or not. With access to high speed wifi, which has at least 10 Mbps download speed and 1 Mbps upload speed.
- Personal tutors outside of school hours in each school.
- Full funding of all media of any music and art program in schools.
- Socio-emotional learning (set up time for breaks and finance outdoor spaces / green spaces).
- Fund organizational projects that are executed and focused on students (pantry, self-help projects, clubs and other community initiatives).
- Steps must be taken to stop the spread in physical spaces. This must be validated by the administration of each school and the “Peer pod (teams of teachers, students and parents)”. What that will look like is that CPS would provide:
- The antigen test provided by Governor Pritzker for the Chicago Public School should be available in every school, every day. We would like to add that these should be distributed to our communities who are most disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic which coincidentally happens to be our black and brown communities on the south and west sides.
- A sustainable and efficient contact tracing system that considers the whereabouts of infected students at all times of their day (with the help of input from students and the school community, meaning members of school communities know best their peers and the people with whom they coexist).
- Free vaccines and immunization education for skeptical and non-native English speaking parents. In addition, create vaccination centers in schools and provide education around COVID.
- Enough N-95 masks with other PPE face covers and medical grade masks, as data has proven that cloth masks do not prevent the spread of the Omnicron variant.
- Wipes in every room, hand sanitizer, hand washing stations and air ventilating machines in working order.
- Increase remote workforce for staff members and students who are not required to be in the building, ensuring they are virtually involved in school affairs by funding all necessary software .
- Hire additional staff to support separate teaching of students in smaller cohorts. The increased adult support in a school creates accessibility for social distancing and reducing class sizes, but also gives us students more one-on-one time with our teachers. This type of support helps to build human connections / relationships within our school communities that benefit our mind, body and spirit nourishment. Added a process where students have the option to be assigned to someone in their school community to register daily.
- Teachers play an essential role in the learning process. They don’t deserve to have to put their work on their health. There would not be a teacher who inherently hinders a student’s education since his whole profession is to ensure that students are educated, cared for and loved. To teach, they must think in the best interests of the students. The CPS should allow:
- Teachers will be able to choose whether they wish to teach virtually or in the building … (clarification on care and openness to options)
- Take time off work due to Covid concerns.
- Abolition of threats of non-payment, the CPS should never have the possibility.
- Allow staff time to prepare for the proposed plan before the students return to school.
- Additional substitutes.
- Provide spaces for healing and community building.
- For now, winter sports are coming to an end and spring sports are just conditioning. This is a decrease in activities but if some were to occur, the CPS should allow them to do so. Students should interact with their peers during this time, they can meet in person or in virtual spaces. People should always be able to engage in things that move us forward, our interest outside of academia, our hobbies. While considering everything that is happening all the time, it should be different:
- Move to larger classrooms and unoccupied spaces inside the school
- Small cohorts of groups of up to 15
- No spectators for sport
- Fully masked
- Vaccine required
- Contacts search
- There is no one overall plan that will work for every school and every student. Trying to make one would deny a group, it’s inevitable. Schools should have their own ability to create plans that work best for their environment and their students. Each school should have a peer group working group made up of school members, including teachers, staff, students, parents, and administration, to create the school’s specific Covid response plan. Aspects of the school that should be considered are:
- The way the building should be used and occupied (added extra childcare supports, open space for students who don’t want to be home, extra space for distancing during uneducated periods)
- Shift in schedules and class times that work best during these times
- Create peer / teacher support teams, where classmates can openly communicate the individual needs of peers and at the same time these needs can be communicated to school administrators
- Restorative practices
- Additional supports required that CPS must provide
- Community construction