CHICAGO - When Linda Perales’ students log in for class Tuesday, they’ll be greeted by an unfamiliar face.
Perales, a special education cluster teacher at Corkery Elementary School, continued to teach remotely last week rather than return to her classroom. Perales said she informed Monday that her access to her Google Classroom account was being suspended.
About 6,000 children returned to Chicago Public Schools classrooms Monday for the first time in 300 days.
"I know returning to school is unsafe because we know that our cluster students cannot wear their masks all day. We have been told that we need to build their tolerance to wearing the mask, which implies that they cannot wear the mask and this is an airborne virus, and not wearing masks puts everyone at risk," Perales said.
Quinton Washington, a music teacher at Sadlowski Elementary School, said, "It is amazing to me that CPS is requiring those of us who were working remotely to come into the building, but substitute teacher coverage is being done remotely."
Chicago Teachers Union leadership accused CPS of bullying staff members into returning to classrooms they say are unsafe without issuing staff members procedures to follow in case of an outbreak in a school.
"The frustrating part is that we feel like we aren’t being listened to," CTU President Jessie Sharkey said at a news conference Tuesday morning. "We feel like we are raising reasonable concerns."
Staff members returning to John T. McCutcheon Elementary School last week to set up their rooms instantly noticed issues just days before students were expected to return to the classroom, social studies teacher Jenny Delessio–Parson said.
"Two of the classrooms set to receive students had not passed the ventilation assessment by CPS’ standards, teachers found rooms that had not been fully cleaned since March, and there was no all-staff meeting or clear instruction on how to receive the students," Delessio–Parson said.
A staff member tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, and others who might have come into contact with that co-worker were not notified until Sunday, Delessio–Parson said.
A kid holds a sign from a protester's car as it drives in the Occupy City Hall Protest and Car Caravan hosted by Chicago Teachers Union in Chicago, Illinois, on August 3, 2020.(Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
"We didn’t receive notification about that initial case from CPS until Sunday evening, and at that point, we had other staff members exhibit symptoms. And Monday, we had staff members come into the building who later left because they also began to exhibit symptoms," Delessio–Parson said.