Linda Perales got emotional this morning as she looked out at a crowd of about 150 Chicago Public Schools teachers and community members who had gathered in Pilsen in solidarity with thousands of educators and staff who returned to schools earlier this month.
“Over 75% of parents have decided to stay home, so we know that what we’re doing, what we’re fighting for, is right,” said Perales, who choked back tears. “And [Mayor] Lori Lightfoot and [CPS CEO] Janice Jackson need to listen to us.”
Perales was one of the thousands of Chicago Public Schools teachers expected to return to the classroom with students earlier this month. But Perales, who teaches kindergarten through second grade as part of Corkery Elementary School’s cluster program, decided to stay home and continue to teach class online out of concern that CPS’ reopening plan wasn’t safe.
“I want to be teaching. I’m ready to teach, but remotely until it’s safe,” said Perales, who clutched a handmade “Let me teach” sign. “[This fight is] not just for us, it’s for our students that could take COVID home to their families that have already been hit hard. It’s to keep everyone safe.”
The Chicago Teachers Union and its supporters held a march on the South Side this morning as it continued the union’s monthslong plea for a safe reopening plan.
More than 3,700 teachers and school employees and some 6,000 preschoolers and special education students with complex disabilities were expected to return to school buildings last week for the first time since March, though it’s unclear how many students actually showed up.
With the return of even more teachers and staff imminent — the next wave, which is much larger than the first, is set to go back to schools Jan. 25 — CTU and its supporters are feeling the pressure to ensure a safe return to the classroom for its members and students.