Andrea McLaughlin, a second grade teacher, is afraid to return to her school, F.S. Edmonds Elementary in Northwest Philadelphia, because she doesn’t know what she will find. She, and many other public school teachers, don’t believe in the promises the School District of Philadelphia has made in its plans to reopen this month. “This is beyond COVID,” McLaughlin said. “This is about trust, and this is about getting us what we need and our kids deserve.” McLaughlin and other staff were supposed to return to school buildings Monday for the first time since March.
Thousands of Philadelphia public school teachers are set to defy their district’s order to return to classrooms Monday. They will instead work virtually. This week marks the third attempt by the school district of Philadelphia to reopen school buildings in the midst of the pandemic. The district has been remote-only since last March. District officials demanded that approximately 2,000 kindergarten through second-grade teachers prepare classrooms beginning February 8 so that students could return on February 22. Nine thousand students are scheduled to enter buildings first, with further grades phased in later.
The drive to reopen Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the third largest school district in the country, has become a pitched battle between educators and the state apparatus, the latter backed up by the corporate media and the unions. The fight by Chicago educators to prevent the reopening of schools is the focal point of the class struggle in the United States, with every other major district in the country looking to Chicago to set a precedent. In this context, it is of the utmost importance for teachers and other educators to organize independently of the unions and join the Chicago Educators Rank-and-File Safety Committee, as well as attend this Saturday’s national meeting of the Educators Rank-and-File Safety Committee...
Chicago Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) ordered 5,800 teachers to return for in-person instruction at the beginning of January. Teachers who refused to return to in-person learning as the deadly COVID-19 virus raged through Chicago were labeled by the district as “absent without leave.” Their pay was docked, and their computer access locked. The World Socialist Web Site recently interviewed Jake, one of nearly 150 locked-out educators. Jake was a physical education (PE) teacher at a CPS elementary school for five and a half years until recently. He quit the profession after being locked out.
The seven-day average COVID death toll hit an all time high yesterday, with over 3,400 Americans expected to die on any given day. Educator cases are on the rise. Studies have shown that children are as likely to contract and pass the coronavirus on as adults, making schools potential super spreading hotspots. As a result, European nations like the United Kingdom, Germany, Ireland, Austria, Denmark, and the Netherlands are shuttering schools, despite, in many cases, having lower infection rates than the U.S. President Biden, however, is pushing forward with a new plan to achieve a near full reopening within his first 100 days in office. And the media are attacking teachers for raising doubts about the program.
Across the country, a growing number of students, teachers, and parents are resisting pressure to return to the classroom before all teachers and students are vaccinated—and in Baltimore, students are preparing to strike in support of their teachers’ safety. During a Jan. 26 school board meeting, 18-year-old high school senior Joshua Lynn, a former student school board commissioner, announced plans for a student strike against in-person instruction until teachers are vaccinated. “Reopening … should not be followed through …. unless all teachers are FULLY vaccinated,” Lynn, who recently recovered from COVID-19, told The Real News.
The Broward Teachers Union’s fight to secure work-from-home orders for about 1,100 teachers seems to have ended with an arbitrator’s decision. The BTU filed a lawsuit against Broward County Public Schools, demanding those teachers with health concerns be allowed to keep special accommodations which were granted in October. The district said only the most seriously ill teachers, about 600, would be allowed to teach from home as the rest were needed in the classroom. The arbitrator sided with the district. “This is a win for our students,” said Superintendent Robert Runcie. “We recognize the health concerns of our teachers and will continue to balance their needs with the needs of students who are struggling and must be back in a safe and healthy school for face-to-face learning.”
Chicago —In an unprecedented remote electronic vote, 71 percent of Chicago Teachers Union members have voted to continue teaching remotely starting Monday, Jan. 25, 2021. Eighty-six percent of rank-and-file members voted from Thursday, Jan. 21 through Saturday, Jan. 23. With this vote, rank-and-file educators will continue teaching remotely, and safely, as they have been doing for months. A message from Chicago Public Schools this afternoon, claiming that “we have agreed to a request from CTU leadership to push back the return of K-8 teachers and staff to Wednesday, Jan. 27,” and seeking to sow dissent and disrupt collective Union action, is inaccurate.
As Chicago educators continue to vote on a Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) resolution in support of teaching remotely, and to strike only in the event of retaliation from the school district, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Janice Jackson reiterated at a Friday news conference that such an action “would constitute a strike.” Although Jackson insisted, “We’re not locking teachers out,” indications are that CPS officials will cut educators off from their district-provided Google accounts, preventing them from teaching remotely. This has already been done to dozens of teachers in the district, to which the CTU has responded with no collective actions as at least 87 teachers remain locked out.
About 40% of Chicago Public Schools teachers and staff who were expected to report to schools Monday for the first time during the pandemic didn’t show up for in-person work, officials said Tuesday, accusing the Chicago Teachers Union of pressuring its members to defy the district’s orders. In all, about half of teachers and three-quarters of school-based support staff in preschool and special education cluster programs returned to classrooms as expected, accounting for 60% of those 4,400 employees scheduled to go back to specific schools, the district announced. Officials didn’t immediately provide data on another estimated 1,400 employees that were supposed to return but work at more than one school.
The Chicago Teachers Union says some of its members are choosing not to return to school buildings on Monday, in defiance of Chicago Public Schools’ reopening plans. The union said Sunday it is “rejecting CPS’ effort to force thousands more back into unsafe buildings beginning this Monday” and that teachers intend to continue providing their lessons remotely “until buildings are safe” for them and for students. Additionally, more than 30 aldermen signed on to a letter sent Sunday to Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson, saying they were “deeply concerned” that the reopening plan does not meet the district’s equity objectives and fails to address some safety concerns.
Teachers and support staff at Glamorgan Junior Public School, in the Toronto borough of Scarborough, walked off the job Monday to protest school authorities’ decision to keep the school open despite a major COVID-19 outbreak. The outbreak was declared last Friday after nine teachers and two students tested positive for the potentially lethal virus. Fifty-eight students have been ordered to quarantine. The work stoppage continued yesterday as reports emerged of a further student testing positive. The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has flatly refused to close the school...
More than 61,000 children in the U.S. were diagnosed with Covid-19 last week — more than in any other week during the pandemic, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association reported Monday. In all, 853,635 children have been diagnosed with the virus this year, representing 11.1 percent of all U.S. cases. The percentage of pediatric cases has risen steadily since mid-April, when children accounted for just 2 percent of Covid-19 cases in the country. "This is a stark reminder of the impact this pandemic is having on everyone...
Michael Barbour, a professor at Touro University California and an expert on K-12 online learning, believes that more than half of the nation’s school superintendents “should be fired.” His blistering criticism stems from the fact that, deep into the 2020-2021 school year, many schools are still struggling with virtual learning during the pandemic. Stories of school districts’ online learning systems crashing are widespread. Teachers complain about not being included in decisions about online curriculum and pedagogy. Alarming numbers of students are not engaged or not showing up, especially in low-income areas and among communities of color.
A middle school educator in Knoxville, Tennessee recently came forward to speak with the World Socialist Web Site about the unsafe conditions at her school. Knox County currently has nearly 13,000 cases of COVID-19 and 92 deaths, making it the third most affected county in the state, behind Shelby (Memphis) and Davidson (Nashville) counties. With the abandonment of even the most rudimentary safety measures at schools and other workplaces, cases in Tennessee have continued to surge in recent months. October has been the state’s deadliest month of the pandemic, with over 700 succumbing to the virus.