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Parents, Teachers In Pilsen Slam CPS Return To In-Person Classes; 'This Plan Is Disrespectful And We Cannot Trust It'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Teachers and parents in the Pilsen neighborhood have a strong message for Mayor Lori Lightfoot, opposing the current Chicago Public Schools reopening plan.

Representatives of 10 CPS schools have signed a letter saying they don't feel safe with in-person learning, which is already underway for students in pre-kindergarten and some special education programs, and will begin Feb. 1 for kindergarten through 8th grade.

CBS 2's Mugo Odigwe breaks down the sticking points.

"This plan is disrespectful and we cannot trust it. The union has been demanding for safety, equity, and trust; and the mayor and the board have not met us any stop of the way," said special education teacher Hilario Dominguez.

Parents and teachers in the 25th Ward are calling the CPS reopening plan poorly conceived. One parent said it's even affecting her son's remote learning.

"His time to be online has changed several times, which as working parents has been very hard for us. The staff who are in his classes has changed," Jungman Elementary parent Sara Tuffs said.

Parents and teachers in Pilsen, a majority Hispanic neighborhood, said more than 40% of COVID-19 cases among children in Chicago are Latino or Hispanic, and many kids who are positive tend to not show any symptoms.

"We demand, just given what we've seen in our communities, that CPS listens to the educators, to the parents, and legislators on the ground; people who are suffering the consequences of this decision," said Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th).

The Chicago Teachers Union and some parents said the district and Chicago Board of Education have a duty to make sure schools have proper personal protective equipment.

But CPS leaders have insisted they've put many things in place to mitigate the chances of getting COVID-19 at schools. They've added air purifiers, bought face coverings and disinfecting supplies, and even added a COVID-19 testing program to the mix.

On Monday, parents and activists protested outside Whittier Elementary School in Pilsen, one of the 10 schools where representatives signed the letter speaking out against reopening.

"CPS did not involve us parents in any decision or input before sending our kids back to school in the middle of a pandemic," CPS parent Miguel Bautisa said.

In-person learning is still on for about 6,000 pre-k and special education students who returned to classrooms on Monday.

CPS said a majority of teachers are showing up to school.

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