Chicago Public Schools hold walkout in protest at CPS headquarters over return to school during COVID surge

CHICAGO (WLS) — Hundreds of Chicago public school students are unhappy with the return to schools and walked out in protest Friday.

Students feel like their voice hasn’t been heard in discussions about COVID safety measures.

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

RELATED | Chicago public schools reopen Wednesday after reaching agreement with CTU

The massive group blocked the entrance to the CPS headquarters, raising their voices and pleading to be included in the talks regarding their safety.

“We have a voice and that’s important!” said Lindblom Math & Science Academy junior Andrea Cespedes. “That’s what we’re here for, so the CPS can hear our voices.”

Catlyn Savado, a freshman at Julian High School and organizer of the CPS Radical Youth Alliance group, led the charge. Students from CPS schools across the city, including Curie High School and Solorio Academy, joined in the effort.

“I think it shows a multitude of things,” Savado said. “I think, in particular, it shows that young people, especially our black and brown young people in Chicago, have not been considered, our humanity has not been considered for a long, long time.”

Savado said they demanded additional security and support from the CPS as COVID cases continue to rise.

“KN-95 masks, COVID testing, opt-out so we know everyone is getting tested for COVID every week, at least every two weeks as well,” 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 leave remotely.

The city agreed to expand student testing, more PPE and measures for individual schools that would trigger a pivot to remote learning. Some parents think that is enough.

“There’s no reason to go out,” said CPS mother Tina McKoy. ” What’s the point ? They had already been gone for a week and a half for what else? What else do they need?

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

But these students say those precautions don’t go far enough to keep them safe – including what they say was a failed COVID test.

“They stopped doing it,” said Joel Brown, a freshman at Julian High School. “Kids are coming here with COVID. We’ll never know.”

CTU said it supports the students’ efforts. The CPS released a statement in response Friday afternoon, saying in part, “School administrators will review student concerns and work with the district to address them.”

“These are not teachers sitting in these desks,” Savado said. “It’s not administrators, and it’s certainly not Mayor Lori Lightfoot sitting in these offices, is it? It’s us, the people behind me, who are sitting in these offices and know what which we need.”

Friday’s walkout came as similar events took place in Boston on Friday and in New York earlier in the week.

“They stand in solidarity with us,” Cespedes said. “And, for us, it’s super empowering to stand with students across the city to demand better COVID safety.”

Chicago Public Schools Full Statement

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) remains committed to fostering learning environments that enable students to respectfully deliberate issues with evidence and an open mind – and to safely participate in civic action.

Classes or special school events should create an environment where students from all perspectives feel they can express themselves in a safe and respectful environment.

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