CHICAGO — Hundreds of Chicago Public School students marched out of their classrooms Friday afternoon and staged a protest Downtown to call for better COVID-19 safety measures in schools as the city deals with a surge in cases.
The action comes just days after students returned to classrooms following a standoff between the district and the Chicago Teachers Union over COVID-19 precautions that canceled school for five days.
Though the district and the teachers reached a deal for classes to resume, Chicago students who walked out Friday said they felt left out of the decision making process.
“We don’t think that is fair or right that Lori Lightfoot makes these decisions about our lives, and we have to sit through it but we don’t get any say,” said Lux de la Garza, a student at Solorio Academy High School in Gage Park.
De la Garza is with Chi-Rads — the Chicago Public Schools Radical Youth Alliance — a coalition of CPS students from across the city who organized Friday’s walkout.
The group wants CPS to increase remote learning opportunities for students and is calling for more social distancing in schools, better access to masks and tests, cleaning products in every classroom and access to laptops for remote learning, according to a press release.
They’ve also called for the district to offer students help with CTA cards, therapy and food and housing help for students in need.
“My school was built to house 850 students. We currently have over 1,500, so even when COVID wasn’t a thing, there was still a problem with overcrowding,” de la Garza said. “Our hallways are always crowded, our lunches are even worse. There is no way that my school can ever truly be safe, which is why we’re calling for a choice of learning … hybrid, remote, or in person.”
The walkout followed a turbulent week-and-a-half for CPS students, many of whom turned to social media to bring awareness to their experience throughout the standoff between CTU and CPS.
“There are nine people in my first-period class,” organizer Catlyn Savado tweeted early Thursday. “This is not school or learning, this is a babysitting center.”
Outside CPS headquarters, students and supporters waved signs and chanted phrases in support of the students and against CPS and Chicago leadership. They occupied the intersection of State and Madison, blocking traffic for a moment before Chicago Police ushered them to the sidewalks.
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