CPS teacher lockouts are disruptive for students, parents say

Every pre-kindergarten family at one Pilsen elementary school chose to continue with remote learning this semester, but parents say their children are now without a regular teacher, who was locked out of the virtual classroom this week for failing to show up to her classroom.

"We have an excellent pre-K teacher there, Ms. Estela, who has worked very hard to create routines and classroom community virtually with 4-year-olds since March," Andrea McGehee, a parent from Whittier Elementary School, said Thursday during a news conference organized by the Chicago Teachers Union.

The school’s pre-kindergarten teacher was locked out of the system this week and unable to prepare a substitute, McGehee said, creating a "disruptive" environment for the students.

"We have 4-year-olds asking who is their teacher is today?" McGehee said.

About 6,000 children — all of them preschoolers and children with complex disabilities — were welcomed back in Chicago Public Schools classrooms Monday for the first time in 300 days, along with 1,200 teachers and 1,700 clinicians.

Nearly 150 employees who chose not to return to their buildings were informed they were would be shut out of their CPS Google Classroom accounts and would not be paid.

CTU President Jesse Sharkey said a majority of CPS families, like McGehee’s, are choosing to stay remote, yet about three-quarters of employees are being called back to buildings, sometimes teaching to classrooms with just one student.

"It doesn’t make sense," Sharkey said Thursday. "We’re going to keep working at the table trying to get a solution, and I hope we’re able to do that because the alternative is not a good one."

Araceli Vega, a parent from McCormick Elementary School, said she and a group of families have decided their students will attend class but will not participate until their teacher’s lockout is lifted.

"We turned off microphones, we turned off cameras," Vega said. "This will continue until our teachers are brought back."