Teachers returned to Southside Occupational Academy High School Monday in Englewood for the first time since March, when schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

ENGLEWOOD — A group of concerned parents is calling on Chicago Public Schools to provide more support for remote learners with a protest Monday, when students return to schools.

Parents Voices Matter, an ad hoc group of public school parents from across the city, is organizing a “sick out” Monday, encouraging CPS families to keep their children out of physical and virtual classrooms. They hope the protest can force the school district to listen more to parents who have concerns about sending children back to schools.

Parents from that group joined members of Illinois Raise Your Hand for a Wednesday morning rally at City Hall, demanding the Mayor’s Office invest federal money into the “trust, learning and care” of students. They want the city to create a quality control team whose members are stakeholders.

Parents are also calling for the prioritizing of diverse learners and the expansion of learning hubs, and for CPS to provide a $100 stipend to students who remain remote.

Administrators shot down the idea, said activist Joseph Williams, a member of Beasley Academic Center’s local school council and co-organizer of the sick out.

“We’re tired of being left out of the decision-making,” Williams said. “When CPS met with CTU, parents should’ve been at the table.

“[CPS chief] Janice Jackson said CPS won’t provide any additional support for remote learning, but what about the parents who don’t feel comfortable returning to in-person learning? All students should have the resources they need to be successful.”

Chalkbeat Chicago reported Wednesday about 60,700 students — or less than 30 percent of students — are expected to return to schools next week. And though CPS’s reopening plan has been praised by experts, many parents and teachers have expressed concerns about if it goes far enough to protect students, families and school communities.

CPS and city leaders said they listened to and worked with parents, teachers and other community members when coming up with a plan to reopen schools. They had been closed since March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But as CPS tried to bring back students and teachers this fall, a fight erupted between the district, city and Chicago Teachers Union. The union was able to pry from CPS promises about testing, vaccinations and plans to close schools that have outbreaks in exchange for reopening.

But parents from the group said their concerns are still being ignored.

“We are sick and tired of not being heard. If I say to my child ‘You’re not going to school today or online,’ then there is no CPS without parents,” said Parent Voices Matter leader Anastasia Chapital, a co-organizer of the sick out.

Williams hopes Monday’s protest will force CPS to listen. If not, the group will continue to apply pressure until they do, he said.

CPS could not be reached for comment.

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