The nation’s third-largest school district closed classroom doors to students Wednesday but kept school buildings open for families who needed childcare during the day, The New York Times reports.
The night before, the Chicago Teachers Union voted not to show up to teach in Chicago Public Schools on Wednesday, citing fears of catching Covid as the omicron variant surges to record levels.
“We are between a rock and a hard place—the rock being the pandemic, the hard place being an intractable, incompetent mayor,” the paper quoted Stacy Davis Gates, the union’s vice president, as saying. She added, “We said a two-week pause so they could get themselves together, have the proper communication, put in the necessary mitigations.”
But Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot wanted to keep classes in-person.
“Nobody signs up for being a home-schooler at the last minute,” the Times quoted her as saying. “We can’t forget about how disruptive that remote process is to individual parents who have to work, who can’t afford the luxury of staying home.”
For the most part, the omicron variant has brought less severe illness to vaccinated adults than other variants earlier in the pandemic. In addition, outcomes for children, whether vaccinated or not, have been less severe as well, in general.
“That fear is kind of transformed from the medical worst-case scenario to, this is going to be another month, another semester where my daughter’s going to miss out on consistent education, getting to know her friends, getting to know her teachers,” the Times quoted Ismael El-Amin, whose daughters are vaccinated and attend two Chicago schools, as saying.
Chicago Public Schools serve about 350,000 students, and officials are starting to wonder, When does it end?
“If this is the way we’re going to behave to every variant, our kids can’t count on our schools, NBC News quoted one parent of a kindergartner and second-grader in Chicago.
Weighing the risks of children catching and spreading Covid and the benefits of in-person learning, other parents have a clear vision of what kids need.
“We were getting notification after notification that there was a case in our children’s school,” the network quoted another Chicago parent as saying. “If community spread was lower … I’ll definitely send my kids, because the benefit to them being in class and being able to be with their peers greatly outweighs the risk.”