The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Chicago Public Schools:
Returning Under Covid

Aug 2, 2021

At this point in the summer, parents are asking “What will school look like this fall?” Working class students, and their parents, have been put through the wringer this past year and a half. At best, they lost out, learning what they could through Zoom. For thousands of Chicago students, the year was a total loss—many stopped attending any class at all.

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced in-person learning for fall for all students, and that all students and staff in city schools must be masked. For student safety, the CDC recommends students maintain at least 3 feet of social distance. That’s not possible at hundreds of schools! Not with classes of over 30 students, and all classrooms already in use.

The School Board still has not worked out how lunch will work. Cafeterias often serve over three hundred students at a time—needless to say, they cannot eat while masked. In fact, one measure that could go toward a safer and better education would be to increase the staffing at all schools. But instead of hiring, CPS laid off 443 teachers and staff in June.

The coronavirus spreads mainly by aerosols, so having good ventilation is vital to prevent its spread.

With a pandemic raging, the district acknowledged the importance of school cleanliness. The Board, faced with the question of how to oversee school cleaning, couldn’t find a way to do it, other than re-hiring Aramark, already found deficient, at the last minute!

Instead of laying off staff, they need to hire. Instead of leaving buildings untouched during nine months of last year during Covid, they should have worked on ventilation. They are updating ventilation at 17 schools, when they need to work on hundreds.

Of course, addressing any problem requires money. CPS is receiving $3 billion dollars from the federal government, from the three Covid relief packages. A little over one billion of that money is included for school spending this year. That sounds like a lot of money—in fact, it’s an additional $1,370 for each of the district’s 340,000 students.

Chicago Public Schools has always found ways to route money to the rich through contractors like Aramark, pandemic or no pandemic. Working class parents will need to organize, and in a big way, to even get some of the bailout funds for the students.