By Isabelle Ravanas, Editor-in-Chief
After two days of cancelled classes, the Payton community was let know that class on Friday, Jan. 7 would be cancelled due to the current impasse between the CTU and CPS.
As Omicron levels are on the rise, school districts across the country adjusted their protocols to mitigate the spread of the virus after the holiday season, a time of gathering and/or travel for most people. Some school districts such as the one in Pike County, AL have reinstated mask mandates at school while others, such as Milwaukee Public Schools, transitioned directly into remote learning. Larger school districts, such as CPS and New York Public Schools, planned on going back in person.
As of Jan. 6, Illinois continues to average an 118 percent increase in COVID cases with an 85 percent increase in Cook County specifically. These numbers, as well as the expected surge of cases after the holidays, prompted CTU officials to take a vote on the Union’s next steps. Citing learning loss, inequities, and an overall difficult time for families, CPS stated that it would have no other choice but to shut schools down completely if the CTU moved to go remote. Defending CPS’s stance on wanting to keep the schools open, Mayor Lori Lightfoot reacted to the events by saying “Nobody signs up for being a home-schooler at the last minute, […] we can’t forget about how disruptive that remote process is to individual parents who have to work, who can’t afford the luxury of staying home.” Nonetheless, in a vote on Jan. 4, 73 percent of CTU members voted to switch to remote learning. In response, CPS shut down classes on Wednesday and Thursday, locking teachers out of their emails and thus all access to their students. The Mayor classified this as an “illegal work stoppage”.
As the first major school district to shift to remote learning, the situation has garnered a lot of public attention. Former president Donald Trump commented on the situation saying in a statement “what is happening in Chicago with all the school closures is devastating” and “Educate our children in person or give every dollar spent on education directly to the students so they can get out of these failing government schools!”. Similarly, White House press Secretary Jen Psaki stated the country is “more than equipped to ensure schools are open … including in Chicago.”
Between Monday and Tuesday there were 35 reported student cases of COVID and 9 faculty reports at Payton. In an email out to the school community, Dr. Shabazz informed the school community that 80 percent of students (not counting those who haven’t reported their vaccination status) and 98 percent of staff were vaccinated. In her email, Dr. Shabazz pointed out the effects that remote learning had on the mental state of students and their learning. Senior David McDermott agreed stating “I just wish we could get back to in-person school. […] I’d rather be in person with the current level of risk than have to battle the fatigue and ineffectiveness of remote learning again.”
Payton did not qualify as a school that could open on Friday, Jan. 7, as it does not have enough staff to meet district guidelines at the moment.