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Chicago Teachers Union demands public schools stay closed as Catholic schools have safely remained open

Union wants judge to block return to in-person learning

The Chicago Teachers Union recently asked a judge to issue an injunction ordering Chicago Public Schools to remain closed to in-person learning for the spring semester. It comes as the city public school system plans to return K-8 students in January and February, according to its reopening plans.

Catholic schools in the city and surrounding area have been open for a hybrid model of in-person and remote learning for a full semester now, with minimal problems. As private entities, Catholic schools have been allowed to stay open under health guidelines, while public schools have been fully remote for the fall semester.

“We feel that in-person instruction is essential for the academic, social, and spiritual development of our students, and in-person learning is supported by the majority of our families and employees,” Jim Rigg, the archdiocese’s superintendent of schools, told The College Fix via a media relations representative.

There are 180 Archdiocesan schools in Cook and Lake County, and another 37 independent Catholic schools overseen by Rigg’s office. Nearly 80,000 students attend these schools.

(Generally, high schools in the archdiocese are run by religious orders but still work with and take guidance from Riggs’ office).

He explained the success of Catholic schools to The Fix:

We constructed a comprehensive health and safety plan that integrates all guidance from federal, state, and local health departments. This plan was developed in consultation with a panel of board-certified infectious disease doctors. Our students and employees have done an excellent job in implementing health and safety practices. While some schools have been impacted by COVID-19 cases, the vast majority of these cases have been caused by infections outside of our schools through such events a family gatherings, social events, and other occurrences. We have had minimal, if any, person-to-person spread in our schools. We are convinced that our schools represent safe environments and that in-person learning can successfully continue.

Rigg said his office does not have a total count of coronavirus cases “as we treat presumed positives as positives and report them to the public health authorities for follow up.”

MORE: New York Times op-ed admits Trump was right on reopening schools

The schools plan to implement a two-week remote learning period in January so that families can travel for Christmas.

“This decision was made to allow families and employees to travel for Christmas Break. Students will return to in-person learning on Jan. 19,” the superintendent said. “Our intention is to continue in-person learning through the remainder of the school year, although we will continue to study and adapt to the pandemic as it develops.”

Neither Emily Bolton nor Michael Passman, who work in media relations for Chicago’s public school, responded to multiple emailed requests for comment in the past two week on the spring 2021 plans and its safety procedures.

The Fix attempted several times to reach out to the Chicago Teachers Union for comment on its plans for the next semester but did not receive a response.

Chris Geovanis, a communications director for the CTU, did not respond to multiple emailed requests for comment on the same questions in the past two weeks.

Local news has taken notice of the success of Catholic schools.

“For the last three months, Catholic schools across the Chicago area have carried on with in-person learning, a relative rarity as COVID-19 has moved the majority of schools in Illinois to remote learning,” National Public Radio affiliate WBEZ reported in November.

“It’s an experiment Chicago Public Schools has been closely watching and cites as one reason it can roll out its latest plan to resume some in-person schooling beginning in January,” the station said.

MORE: Kids rarely transmit coronavirus, so we shouldn’t make them wear masks

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About the Author
Adam Burnett - Illinois State University