More than 340,000 students returned to full in-person instruction yesterday in the nation’s third-largest school district, Chicago Public Schools. That hasn’t happened since March 2020, before the pandemic.
Lisa Dent talked to Stacy Davis Gates, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, on WGN Radio as she was getting her three children ready for their first day of school in a year that promises to be like nothing we’ve ever seen before.
“We are in the biggest group project we’ve seen in a long time,” she said on the talk-radio program normally hosted by veteran broadcaster Bob Sirott.
The relationship between the union and CPS, led by Mayor Lori E Lightfoot, has been contentious, made worse perhaps by a 15-day strike in 2019. But the pandemic has cast a bright light on one of the promises the union gained from those negotiations: an increase in the number of nurses and social workers in the schools.
“We don’t have nurses in every school,” she said. “Obviously that is a concern. Do we have more nurses today, thanks to that struggle? Absolutely, we have more, and we are very glad to have more.
“But we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Look, there is $4 billion right now in Chicago and in the Chicago Public Schools to be spent on stabilizing environments because of the pandemic, trying to point us on the road to recovery. … We’re going to have maximize it and put the infrastructure [in place] that’s been missing for years. When you say nurses, I say I’ll see you one nurse and raise you a social worker.”