Group of Catholic school parents, teachers demand new reopening plan

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CHICAGO — A group of teachers and parents came together Tuesday evening to express their frustrations with the Archdiocese of Chicago and call for a new plan for reopening schools.

Earlier this month, the Archdiocese announced it would start the school year with in-person instruction. 

Teachers speaking during a press conference Tuesday said they never had an opportunity to weigh-in on that decision. Some said they returned to school shocked to see the setup, and they’re unable to practice social distancing and don’t have the proper PPE. 

After reopening last week, at least one school – St. Alexander – was forced to suspend in-person instruction until September 8 due to COVID-19.

Parents speaking Tuesday agreed health and safety need to be prioritized, and said that’s just not happening. 

Angela Wright-Louis, a grandparent of a student at St. Benedict the African, said the schools shouldn’t be putting teachers and children at risk.

The Archdiocese of Chicago issued the following statement:

Providing a high-quality, faith-filled education to 50,000 students is challenging in these times. We are confident our carefully constructed plan to provide in-person instruction, scrupulously applied at each school represents the best response to the needs of our families.

To date, 127 schools, about 80 percent of the total have opened. Each has responded to its individual community with offerings that met its preferences. All provide a remote-learning option for those families who choose it.

The reopening plan for archdiocese schools was created with considerable input from stakeholders, including teachers and medical experts.

Important among the opinions considered were those of our school families, 85 percent of whom requested full-time, in-person instruction.

Our reopening plan conforms to guidance provided by the competent public health authorities including local and state departments of public health. It allows for recommended distancing and all schools have adequate supplies of PPE for their personnel.

When we have become aware of exposures to COVID-19 or other triggering events, we have followed the plan, including requirements to report confirmed cases to the local health department and the school community involved. Most of the handful of events reported have resulted from circumstances outside of the school. They have been exposures and contacts happening in familial and household environments as well as public events. 

It is reasonable to expect incidents such as these will occur as the pandemic continues in Illinois. Our plan reflects the guidance from authorities on how to deal with them. We assess, investigate and take action based on established norms about quarantining and exposure. We take a very cautious approach, again in consultation with public authorities. We are transparent with affected individuals, staff and families within the bounds of respecting the privacy of those involved. We also work to resume in-person learning as soon as possible.

We will continue to follow our protocols and adapt our plan as the pandemic evolves in our region, inviting input from our families and employees.

We respect our 3,500 teachers and staff members and refer those with concerns to their local school leadership who are best equipped to respond.

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