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CHICAGO – As the back-and-forth war between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union lengthens, the latest to weigh in is city parents and their children.

CPS parents and students gathered Sunday at Millennium Park to pressure both the school district and CTU to resolve when to reopen city high schools. The demand comes after younger CPS students have slowly returned to the classroom since February.

During Sunday’s rally, WGN cameras rolled as the group chanted, “Back to school, back to work, so we can get back to life for Chicago.” Among the demonstrators were small children with signs that read “Kids First” and “Follow the science, not the politics.”

Ryan Grifin of the grassroots organization “The Chicago Parents Collective” told WGN he and other parents are frustrated that school district officials and union leaders continue to quibble.

“The rhetoric, the fighting – zero cooperation. This continues to frustrate and harm families across this city,” he said.

Last week, CPS floated the idea of bringing kids back to school on April 19. The district issued a statement that read, in part, “Following the successful reopening of our elementary schools as well as new guidance from the Biden Administration that supports bringing students back to classrooms, we know we can safely resume in-person high school instruction as long as the right plan is in place.”

CTU officials countered, however, saying that safety concerns remain.

“The pandemic has brought us to this moment, and the numbers speak for themselves,” a CTU statement read. “Our families need assurances of safety, and it is clear that the overwhelming majority of the families we serve simply do not trust claims of equity from the mayor and CPS.”

Dr. Preethi Raghupatruni, a CPS parent, says that data now shows schools are a safe place. The pediatrician adds that the reopening plan is as much about safety as it is about fairness.

The Chicago Parent’s Collective will not settle for ‘more bargaining drama’ and a non-traditional school schedule for high school students, Grifin adds.

“We are not giving up on this school year, which still has more than a quarter to do,” he said.
“We are asking what will get us back to the classroom and what we as parents can do to help.”

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