New York City and Oakland, California students demand end to in-person instruction as pandemic spreads | #students | #parents

New York City and Oakland, California students demand end to in-person instruction as pandemic spreads

Students at several high schools throughout New York City are planning a walkout on Tuesday to protest unsafe schools during the Omicron surge. They have circulated a petition that states in part:

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has dramatically increased infection rates in this city over the past few weeks, rendering the administration’s decision to keep schools in-person unreasonable and, above all, irresponsible. Physically attending school places students and staff members at increased risk of contracting this highly transmissible strain, either in the building or on public transit, risking not only their lives but needlessly contributing to the spread of the disease.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, a petition from Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) high school students demanding an end to in-person instruction until schools can be safely reopen reached 625 signatures Monday morning. The petition follows a walkout by over 500 teachers last Friday.

On Thursday evening, the OUSD and the Oakland Educator Association (OEA) purportedly came to an agreement on “safety bargaining” in response to the student strike threat and the teacher sickout. The three measures agreed to—weekly pool testing for elementary students, a single day off of school and a slight extension of the number of days teachers can take off if they get COVID-19—do nothing to fundamentally address the rapid spread of the virus throughout the area.

Shula, an Oakland teacher, responded to the claim on Facebook by school board member Mike Hutchinson that the agreement is a “win, for everyone” by writing: “This agreement doesn’t come close to what students and staff need to be safe at school, and I know of 0 people who actually work or attend in person at a school who are satisfied with this.”

In the nearby Milpitas School District, a ten thousand student district in Silicon Valley, the school board reversed its decision to go remote Sunday night after pressure from Santa Clara County to not go remote. District statistics show that 274 teaching and staff positions were unable to be filled last week due to sick teachers and support staff.

The Santa Clara County Public health director and the district’s superintendent released a joint statement calling on schools to “find ways to co-exist and to live with COVID.”

As union moves to reopen schools, Chicago parents back educators fight for remote-only instruction

Classes in Chicago were canceled for the fourth consecutive school day on Monday, as teachers continue their fight for remote-only classes amidst the massive surge in COVID-19 infections. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has locked out more than 20,000 educators from their online school accounts to prevent them from teaching remotely and communicating with parents.

While teachers are determined to keep infected school buildings closed, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Jesse Sharkey said, “We’re trying to find a way to get people back in school” during a rally outside of Spry Elementary School Monday morning. According to WBEZ education reporter Sarah Karp, “This morning, Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey says that the union has compromised on some of the biggest issues, including widespread testing and on remote learning.”

The CTU has asked the city to resume remote learning this Wednesday and offered to return teachers to classrooms on January 18 in exchange for a few cosmetic protocols. These include weekly random testing of at least 10 students and staff at every school and a 14-day “pause” in in-person learning if the test positivity rate increases for seven consecutive days, remains at 15 percent higher than the rate from one week prior for each of those days and reaches 10 percent or greater on the seventh day. Individual schools could be transitioned to remote learning only if 20-25 percent of the staff or 25-35 percent of students were out after being infected or exposed.

Like it did last year, the CTU is giving the Democratic administration a pretext to reopen schools even as infections and hospitalizations reach record levels, and as the Cook County Medical Examiner is sending trailers to local hospitals to relieve overcrowded morgues.

The abandonment of the demand for remote learning underscores the need for rank-and-file educators to take the fight out of the hands of the CTU. This means building the Chicago Educators’ Rank-and-File Safety Committee and fighting to mobilize workers throughout the city to close the schools and non-essential businesses, while allocating the resources for virtual learning and compensating workers for lost income.

Contrary to claims by Mayor Lightfoot and the national corporate media, teachers have widespread support from working-class parents and young people in the city.

“I 100% support” the Chicago teachers, Briana, a parent of a Chicago Public Schools student told the WSWS. “The fact of the matter is that the investments CPS made before the start of the school year still fall short of what many of the schools need in order to safely protect students and staff. Furthermore CPS is just outright lying to Chicago families about the cleanliness of schools as well as the transmission rates at schools. A study that conflicts with CPS showed that school has the highest rate of transmission compared to any other place for children.

“Many schools with older buildings needed major upgrades even before the pandemic started. If CPS really cared about their students the way they claimed, we would’ve seen a growth in the amount of funding and resources that at the very least matches that of CPD (Chicago Police Department).

“Bottom line, I truly believe that CPS doesn’t care if children and staff are safe. They just care that parents are back to work.

“While I understand that not every parent has the support systems in place to accommodate remote learning and that not every child thrives in remote learning, I’d rather my child fall a bit behind and live than have to deal with long haul Covid issues or even worse, burying my child.”

Chicago teachers in forefront of nationwide fight to close schools as COVID-19 infections reach record levels

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More than 20,000 Chicago educators are entering their second week of struggle to demand virtual-only classes as teachers, parents and students across the country demand protection from the spread of COVID infections.

On Sunday night, school district officials announced that classes would be canceled on Monday for the fourth consecutive school day. After educators voted overwhelmingly last Tuesday to teach remotely until January 18, Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot locked educators out of their online work accounts, preventing them from conducting online classes with their students or communicating with parents.

Teachers protest for stronger COVID-19 safety protocols outside Oakland Unified School District headquarters on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The courageous stand by rank-and-file educators has prevented hundreds of thousands of Chicago students from contracting COVID in school as the pandemic rages. Chicago and Illinois are setting COVID case and hospital records and the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office last week announced officials have started deploying trailers to hospitals “to help decompress their morgues if necessary” as they treat the most COVID patients they’ve ever seen.

In a national television appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Lightfoot reiterated her claims that teachers were engaged in an “illegal strike,” saying they had “abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families.” The mayor said her administration was “working diligently every single day at the bargaining table to narrow the differences and get a deal done” but ruled out any virtual-only classes. Lightfoot’s own chief of staff extended the ability for the mayor’s office staff to work from home for at least another week.

A teacher tweeted her reply to Mayor Lightfoot’s lying claim that the best and safest place for children is a classroom in the midst of the pandemic. “The best, safest place for my students right now is NOT my in-person classroom,” she stated. “Because I have Covid. Which I caught in my classroom to begin with.” Illinois teachers also responded enthusiastically to statements by students and teachers in Germany supporting their struggle. One said, “As a German teacher, I love this!”

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