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Chicagoans Speak Out Against Keeping CPS Schools Open in the Face of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Last night, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a new set of measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. Those measures did not include closing schools.

Chicago Public Schools announced they will keep district schools operating as usual. Currently, only Vaughn Occupational, where a staff member tested positive for coronavirus, is closed. According to the updated FAQ released last night: “CPS will follow the recommendations of [the Chicago Department of Health] in all decisions about whether to temporarily close a school if needed.”

We already know the district is struggling with basic sanitation, such as keeping adequate supplies of soap and towels in bathrooms and providing classrooms with hand sanitizer and wipes. Elementary teachers have taken to social media to share their struggles without adequate cleaning supplies.

Meanwhile, wealthy suburban districts in Evanston and Winnetka are closing school buildings and shifting to e-learning. A CPS high school teacher had this to say about the disparity:

Others outside the schools are also taking up the call:

We Can Close Schools And Kids Can Still Eat

To its credit, Illinois is now among a number of states that have received permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to distribute school meals to low-income students in ways other than “congregate feeding”–meaning they don’t have to be fed in a group. I don’t know if this means we’ll see Meals on Wheels for Kids any time soon, but it could ease pressure on CPS to stay open.

High school teacher Andrew Johnson had more to say about the bigger picture here.

It’s a hard line to walk between fueling fear and making prudent decisions about how to limit the spread of coronavirus. But past experience suggests closing schools earlier rather than later can slow the spread and “flatten the curve” of infections.

At last night’s press conference, after announcing CPS schools will remain open, Mayor Lightfoot said, “We would never put our children in danger. ” Sure hope she doesn’t have to eat those words.

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Maureen Kelleher

Chicago Unheard blog manager Maureen Kelleher also serves as a senior writer and editor at brightbeam, a nonprofit network of education activists demanding a better education and brighter future for every child. Before joining the brightbeam team, she spent a decade as a reporter, blogger and policy analyst. Her work has been published across the education world, from Education Week to the Center for American Progress. A former high school English teacher, she is also the proud mom of a middle-schooler. Find her on Twitter at @KelleherMaureen.

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