Niamh Dillon

Student input on CTU’s decision to return to in-person school

Jan. 26, 2022

With the great controversy and uncertainty that came with the Chicago Teachers Union’s (CTU) decision to accept Chicago Public Schools (CPS’) deal and return to in-person learning after winter break, many students felt that their opinions and feelings were overlooked. Classes for CPS students were canceled on Wednesday, Jan. 6, due to disagreements with the CTU regarding the option to convert to remote learning and concerns over COVID-19 safety measures. 

The CTU suggested remote learning after a rise in COVID cases due to the more recent Omicron variant, yet Chicago leaders firmly stood behind the claim that schools were safe for students and remote learning was detrimental to learning and growth. 

According to WTTW, attendance from both teachers and students was on a decline in the days prior to the school closure due to potential and confirmed exposures to COVID-19. At Lane, many students gathered in a crowded auditorium for certain classes, because of the shortage of substitute teachers in the building. 

Due to a lack of common ground between the two parties, school was closed for a total of five days from Jan. 5 to Jan. 12, leaving students at home with no remote instruction and no access to teachers, as most were locked out of their Google accounts. 

After a five-day work stoppage, consisting of debates regarding topics such as increased testing, availability of substitutes, as well as contact tracing and mask requirements, CPS and CTU reached an agreement. 

The Chicago Sun Times reported that 55.5% of CTU members voted in favor of returning to in-person learning given the current conditions. While the decision to remain in schools took a lot of time and effort from both parties, the opinions and feelings of the students were not a deciding factor. 

The timing of the work stoppage was problematic for junior Lillian Aylward, Div. 380.

“I was a little bit stressed, because we had finals coming up and I wanted to get my grades up,” she said. 

Final exams were originally scheduled for the 24th and 25th of January for Lane students, just three school days after returning back to school. With the uncertainty surrounding finals, many students worried that they were not prepared enough to take the exams. 

Due to the work stoppage, Lane decided to keep the final exam bell schedule but cancel the exams themselves. Some teachers used the period for teaching or practice, while others gave exams that would serve only to benefit student’s grades. 

The announcement of the school cancellation disappointed some students, due to their preference of in-person classes. 

“Honestly I got really upset at first because I really like being in person at school and it can be hard for me to do school online or not have school socially,” said Lane Freshman Dani Fingard, Div 563. 

The decisions made by the CTU and Chicago government directly affect the students daily lives and safety. However, the students were not given any opportunity to provide feedback or their opinions on the safety measures in their schools. 

“I feel like as long as people can keep their mask over their nose, then it’s OK,” Aylward said. “But I know a lot of people who are getting sick, so that kind of worries me.”

Overall, the work stoppage consisted of uncertainty and confusion for most students, and the decision to return to in-person school and maintain and implement safety measures was one made without direct input from the student body.

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