Public Schools

Scores of nurses in Chicago public schools say reopening buildings is still unsafe

Written by Mamie M. Arndt

Statement by Chicago Public School nurses

As the undersigned nurses employed by Chicago Public Schools (CPS), we wish to go on record as being opposed to the current plan of resuming in-person learning on January 11, as we do not believe it is safe for students, their families, or the wider community.

The Chicago Teachers Union went on strike in October 2019 and a main demand was a nurse in every school every day. Our commitment to the health of our school communities is clear. CPS is still far away from having a nurse in every building every day.

COVID-19 has taken a terrible toll on everyone. Students, families, and educators have all been affected. For the African-American and Latinx communities, there has been disproportionate suffering. It is little wonder that two thirds of families from these backgrounds have opted to continue remote learning. Chronic racist health inequities underlie these disparities, and CPS arguing that “equity” needs to drive students back into unsafe buildings makes no sense.

We understand that remote learning is far from ideal, but the conditions of this pandemic are not of anyone’s choosing. Many of us are CPS parents ourselves, and all wish to be back in school buildings, but the simple fact is that it is currently not safe to do this.

As of January 3, positivity rates for Chicago overall are 9.2% and trending upward.[1] In some zip codes, such as 60639 and 60632, the positivity rates are over 17%. Deaths from across Illinois have been over 100 a day, and went up following Thanksgiving. It is reasonable to expect that these dire statistics will continue to worsen following the Winter Break.

Many say that children are not as affected by this disease. The illnesses and deaths of family members from COVID-19 affects everyone, and it is dismissive to state otherwise. The mutant form of the virus, B.1.1.7, has arrived in the United States, and it is a matter of time before it reaches Chicago, if it hasn’t already. This strain has been demonstrated to be more contagious, and children in the United Kingdom are now testing positive at higher rates.

While it may be the case that a child will recover more easily from such an infection, consider the psychological impact on them should a family member fall ill, if this disease is brought home from school. Multiple CPS buildings where people have been going in to work already, have had positive cases of COVID-19, and this is before students and staff have returned.

CPS’s current plan to handle students who are suspected of having COVID-19 is to have them kept in a “care room” until a parent can pick them up. This area will not be staffed by a nurse or any licensed healthcare worker, but by whomever the district can find. We have been told that training for these “care room” attendants is under development, but we have yet to see it rolled out.[2]

Furthermore, for students who have significant health needs, such as breathing treatments for asthma, or suctioning of a tracheostomy, we have not seen any written plan of how to carry out such procedures. In hospitals, these must be done in specially designed rooms, because the risk of spreading disease is too great.

To put it clearly: nurses who work in schools have not been asked to formulate CPS’s plan, but we are expected to carry it out – despite our objections.

We are not making this statement lightly or without careful consideration. Our professional license demands that we advocate on behalf of our communities, which is why we have chosen to speak directly to parents. Parents, please consider our position and our request that you carefully think about the risks involved with sending your preschool or cluster child into buildings on January 11. We are also asking that the wider community support us in our advocacy to work as full partners in designing a safe reopening within CPS.

Adia Anderson

Adrienne Torres

Alana Porter

Alexis Arguello

Alicia Gamble

Alicia Ivey

Alisha Morris

Amber Bradford

Andrea A. Rivera

Andrea Santella

Andrea Williamson

Andreina Melesio

Angela Morello

Anne Kulik

Aria Phipps

Ashley McGhee

Atinuke Ajibola

Audrea Hamilton

Audrey Burchett

Ayesha Qaadir

Barbara A. Jackson

Benna Bell

Beryl Ross-Randall

Betzua Rubio

Beverly R Woods

Bonnie johnson

Brandon Major

Bria Wilson

Camelia Odorhean

Camellia Noush

Carol Reilly

Cassandra Kowalczyk

Cassandra Walton

Catherine Johnson

Chassidy Jenkins

Cheryl Kramer

Chinita Dillard

Christiana Esguerra Gaviola

Christina Scelsa

Christine Blust

Christine R. Kurys

Cihomara Rubio Arias

Colleen Dalton

Constance Nolan

Courtney Hanson

Dana Rosales

Danielle Mason

Debra Adams

Debra Moore

Debra Starks

Dennis Kosuth

Diane Becerra

Donna L. Garrett-Loury

Ebony Morgan

Ebony Walton

Elizabeth Haloulos

Elonda Vann

Emma Manning

Erica McIntosh

Evelyn Thomas

Frank Ejechi

Genesis Perez

Genevieve Kelley

Gina Cannella

Gloria Salvey

Grace L. Hernandez

Helen Ramirez-Odell

Iman Matthews

Janet Clark

Janet James Benson

Janice DeChalus

Jessica Carrasco

Jessica V Cortes

Joan Lipschutz

Jocelyn Hendricks

Johanna E Magallon

Juanita Brown

Kainos Jackson

Katherine Whitaker

Kathleen O’Rourke-Patrick

Kathleen Wilson

Kathy Garrett

Katrina Caruthers

Kelly Brown

Khatara Johnson

Kimberly M. Dearth

Kysha Doyle

Latosha Nelson

Linda Francois

Lindsay Martin

Lisa Bangs

Lorena P. Ramirez

Lorraine Coleman

Marcina Adams

Margaret Ramir

Marianne Galloway

Maribel Landeros

Marion Branch

Marisol Maldonado

Marquisha Willis

Mary Ann Cantore

Mary Soeding

Meagan Goss

Megan Pacente

Melinda Svastisalee

Melissa Hazzard

Miriam Bahena-Cardona

Monica Diaconeasa

Nayshon Bond

Nga Nguyen

Nikeisha Salas

Norma Gill

Odily DeSouza-Leon

Omar Cattan

Pat Rencher

Patricia Pulliam

Patricia Roberts

PR Sanders-Hayes

Rocio Campos

Rosemary Grossley

Sabrina Coulter

Samantha Zackowitz

Sandra Beck

Sarah McFadden

Sarah Schroeder

Shaundra Ervin

Sheila Clancy

Shundra Robinson

Songbee Kim

Tanya Tomlin

Tara Winter

Tecoma Hill

Tesia Milton

Tiffany Eschmann

Tiffany Ward

Tonya Wainwright

Tracy Listermann-Norman

Valeda M. Shaver

Veronica Atariguana

Viridiana Carrillo

Wonswaylia McThune

Xujie Tan

Yamesse Viera

Yolanda A. Goodloe

Yolanda Starling

[1] As of Friday January 8th the positivity rate is 10.7% and rising

[2] Staff were emailed on Friday January 8th to review a 39 minute video, the day before pre-K and cluster students return

About the author

Mamie M. Arndt