CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — A Chicago Public Schools parent is pleading with the teacher’s union and district leaders to make a deal to return kids to the classroom safely, calling the continuing battle an “ongoing divorce” at the price of students’ mental health.
CPS leaders canceled classes Wednesday after the Chicago Teachers Union voted to switch to remote learning due to rising COVID-19 cases, the latest development in the continuing battle over pandemic safety protocols in the nation’s third-largest school district.
Megan Hasse, the mom of a 9-year-old CPS student, said her daughter, who is normally bubbly, became depressed and anxious while remote learning.
“My daughter became very depressed and very anxious and started to hate school. She’s a very bubbly, lively child who’s very active and she became very sad and down and didn’t want to do anything, didn’t want to see any friends,” Hasse said on “Morning in America.” “So I am very nervous about this indefinite pause to in-person learning.”
The city of Chicago rejected a district-wide return to remote instruction, saying it was disastrous for children’s learning and mental health. But the union argued the district’s safety protocols are lacking and both teachers and students are vulnerable.
“I think as many have said, one death from COVID is one death too many. However, I think at this point in the pandemic, the kids are really what we need to be focusing on and keeping them in school and keeping them engaged,” Hasse said. “You know, here in Chicago, we have such a big district, and it’s a complex district. And I understand that. But I think we need to get creative as to how to keep the kids in school. And unfortunately, that’s just not happening.”
The Chicago Teachers Union’s action, approved by 73% of members, called for remote instruction until “cases substantially subside” or union leaders approve an agreement for safety protocols with the district. Union members were instructed to try and log into teaching systems Wednesday, even though the district said there would be no instruction and didn’t distribute devices to students ahead of the union votes, which were announced just before 11 p.m. Tuesday.
“It’s the kids and the parents that suffer. We are. We’re children in the middle of an ongoing divorce is what it feels like,” Hasse said. “And we just we want to be back in the classroom and the kids want to be back in the classroom.”
CTU was demanding increased testing and better masks distributed at schools and they want to halt in-person learning temporarily so that more safety protocols can be put in place.
“We are in a surge. One of biggest surges we’ve seen,” CTU VP Stacy Davis Gates told NewsNation affiliate WGN Tuesday.
Before Tuesday night’s decision, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot reiterated her frustration with CTU’s impending decision to move to remote learning.
“We saw a three-fold increase in the number of failure rates among elementary school children not only that we heard from parents how disruptive that remote learning was to their lifestyles,” Lightfoot said.
Hasse said she is not only worried about the ramifications on children but on parents, who are now forced to juggle their lives with teaching.
“I think parents yet again, will take on the burden of being teachers of being all the things for their kids,”
Hasse told NewsNation’s Adrienne Bankert. “And, you know, we just have to take it day by day.”
“This decision was made with a heavy heart and a singular focus on student and community safety,” the union said in a statement.
More than 3,700 K-12 schools will be closed nationwide for in-person learning for at least part of this week, according to Burbio, a company that has tracked school openings.
The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate WGN contributed to this report.