Student-led organization plans to lead student walkout Friday

By: Vivian Kaleta and Bridget Galibois, Copy Editors

Chi-RADS is planning a walkout in support of student voice throughout discussions around COVID safety precautions at school. Source: @chiradsCPS

This Friday, students from across Chicago Public Schools are planning to participate in a Walk Out organized by Chi-Rads, an organization of CPS high schoolers. According to Chi-Rads, the intention behind the walk out is to have student voices heard regarding negotiations between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union. Students district-wide will leave school at 12:30 to gather outside CPS headquarters at 1:45 pm to hold a rally and press conference. 

The Chicago Public Schools Radical Youth Alliance, or Chi-RADS, is the organization behind the walkout. Chi-RADS asserts themselves as “organized to create an education system that best serves us.” On January 10, Chi-RADS released a list of demands to encompass what they believe COVID safety measures should be to ensure safe learning environments in schools. The list includes demands for increased access to masks and COVID tests, ideas on how school spaces should be changed in regards to COVID, a supplement of laptops for the possibility of remote learning, and more cleaning products in every classroom.

On Jan. 6 the organization posted a Letter of Declaration addressed to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, and CPS CEO Pedro Martinez. The letter was followed by a message saying “TO BE CLEAR: We stand with the educators, mentors, adult supports, and parents of our school communities, but most importantly, we stand for ourselves, our peers, & our needs.” 

Throughout the week, students all across the nation in New York City, Boston, and Oakland, have walked out to protest their own safety with the surge in COVID cases. CPS students also missed five days of in-person instruction as CPS and the CTU attempted to reach an agreement with regard to COVID safety.

When asked if they would participate in the walkout, seniors Madeline Spark, Mandy Zhang, Alice McDermott, Emilieanna Maus were thinking of joining. “I think I will be, at this time,” said Madeline Spark ‘22. However, other students found academic conflict with their participation.

“I want to, but I can’t because of a calc test,” said Mandy Zhang ‘22. Another senior also expressed interest in the walkout, but didn’t want to face consequences for leaving school.

While the agreement reached between CPS and the CTU was aimed at providing more framework for COVID safety concerns, some students believe that the agreement didn’t address their concerns. “I think CPS did not give [the students] much… I think Payton has a lot of resources, but other schools don’t,” said Zhang.

The planned walkout aims to address student’s concerns of safety, however Emilieanna Maus ‘22 believes that Payton overall feels safe. “I feel [safe in school] mostly because I have resources to be able to be safe, and I know that in CPS, a lot of people are low income and don’t have the same resources as I do.”

In an email sent out tonight, Dr. Shabazz expressed that students who do not come back to school after the walkout will get unexcused absences and their parents or guardians will be contacted. Depending on the teacher, students may or may not get the chance to make up classwork they will have missed. At the end of her message, Dr. Shabazz thanked the Payton community for their support as “we work together to uplift student voice while keeping everyone safe.”

Payton students attending the walkout tomorrow hope to bring student voice to the table as disagreement surrounding pandemic learning continues.

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