Chicago Public Schools hold walkout in protest over return to in-person learning

CHICAGO (WLS) — Some Chicago Public Schools students aren’t happy about the return to schools and walked out in protest Friday.

The students feel like their voices were not heard in discussions over COVID safety measures.

At 12:30 p.m., students at 20 CPS schools walked out of school in protest over the return to in-person learning and head to CPS headquarters in the Loop.

RELATED | Chicago Public Schools reopen Wednesday after reaching deal with CTU

“So basically between CTU and CPS right, young people in Chicago felt like we weren’t being included on the decision making,” said walkout organizer Catlyn Savado.

Savado is a Percy Julian High School student on the Far South Side. She is also member of Chicago Public Schools Radical Youth Alliance, the group organizing the walkout.

Savado said they’re demanding extra safety and support from CPS as COVID cases continue to surge.

“KN-95 masks, COVID testing, opt-out so that we know that everyone right is getting COVID tested weekly, at least biweekly also,” she said.

The city reached an agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union this week after the district canceled classes for nearly a week when teachers demanded to go remote.

The city agreed to expanded testing of students, more PPE and metrics for individual schools that would trigger a pivot to remote learning. Some parents believe that’s enough.

“There’s no reason to walk out,” said CPS parent Tina McKoy. “What’s the point? They were already off for like a week and a half for what else? What else do they need? What is there a walk out for now? I don’t understand.”

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” said CPS parent Bernard Robinson. “I think they need to stay in school and get the education. They’ve been out a lot of days.”

One mother ABC7 spoke with is concerned that her daughter is back in the classroom.

Mylissa Genaro claims promised weekly testing isn’t happening. Plus, she says her daughter told her that students at Taft High School were fighting just before water began gushing out of a boys bathroom.

She shared video of what appears to be unsupervised students playing in hallways flooded with water.

“There’s all these kids not enough teachers, not enough substitute teachers,” Genaro said. They’re all going into the gym. How is that preventing the spread?

In an email, a CPS spokesperson responded, in part, saying, “A bathroom at Taft Freshman Academy was vandalized…Taft engineers and custodial staff have cleaned the area. The matter is under investigation.”

Some students said they’ve seen a difference in safety this week for the good.

“It’s been the same, but people are starting to wear their masks more, so that’s a change,” said Aneisa Mays, Percy Julian student.

It’s unclear how many students will walk out district-wide.

“It depends on the school,” Savado said. “We know that every school is different and unique, which is something that the district doesn’t acknowledge often times but we’re hoping that it’s a good turnout, especially at headquarters.”

The students plan to have a news conference at CPS Headquarters after the walkout.

Meanwhile, there have been student walkouts in other big cities. Boston is having one Friday and New York did it earlier this week.

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