After a bitter fight, the Chicago Public Schools reached a deal with its teachers’ union last week to reopen elementary and middle schools amid the pandemic. By early March, students who have been learning remotely for 10 months will be back in the classrooms.
The agreement speeds up vaccinations for teachers, provides expanded accommodations for educators with medically vulnerable relatives and sets virus thresholds that would trigger a return to remote learning. With other big cities across the nation, particularly on the West Coast, locked in conflict with teachers’ unions, the deal is a potential road map for how local officials can have children return to the classrooms and help President Biden achieve his goal of reopening most schools within the first 100 days of his administration.
In an interview with The New York Times, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a Democrat, speaks frankly about her acrimonious relationship with the Chicago Teachers Union and how she plans to rebuild trust with students’ parents. After campaigning to restore an elected school board, she now says that she believes reopening would not have been possible without mayoral control of schools — something that mayors in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland, where schools remain closed, lack.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
You said a goal of the negotiation was to help everyone feel safe, not just be safe. Can you expand on that?
This last year has been hell on people. It just has. Everything about the certainty of what our day is going to look like, what tomorrow will look like — all of that’s been taken from us. So dealing with people’s emotions, particularly as a leader in this moment, is absolutely a part of my day-to-day life as a mayor.
Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled
Notes and links on Dane County Madison Public Health. (> 140 employees).
Molly Beck and Madeline Heim:
which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.
While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state.
The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.
The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.
“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”
Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.
All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.
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