Wrapped in blankets and hunched over laptops, a handful of locked-out Chicago Public Schools teachers set up their remote classrooms outside the Belmont Cragin home of Chicago Board of Education President Miguel del Valle Wednesday.
A few minutes before, they’d knocked on del Valle’s front door, but there was no answer.
“He has the power to call a meeting, he has the power to speak to the mayor. He has the mayor’s ear,” said Quetzalli Castro, a seventh-grade teacher at the nearby Prieto Math and Science Academy.
Castro was there to support about 100 CPS employees district-wide who still haven’t shown up to their schools this week as required and have been subsequently locked out of their CPS Google Classroom accounts and told they wouldn’t be paid. Teachers refusing to return to classrooms have complained the district’s plan to restart schools in the midst of a pandemic is confusing, inadequate and potentially dangerous.
“I’m frustrated, I’m angry, I’m sad,” said Brian Yuhas, a locked-out special education teacher at Uplift Community High School in the Uptown neighborhood.
He cited a classroom that hasn’t been adequately cleaned and a non-working soap dispenser as some of the reasons he did not want to return to school.
“No one deserves to go in [with] a condition like that. It blows my mind to think that that was OK,” Yuhas said. He was also “very concerned” about the possibility of potentially passing the coronavirus on to his wife, who, he said, has underlying health conditions.
Locked-out teachers said Wednesday they planned to teach anyway — either by posting pre-recorded lessons on personal social media pages or livestreaming lessons on those same pages.
Tracy Royer, who teaches at Gale Community Academy in Rogers Park, was one of the teachers that didn’t return to her classroom as required this week and was locked out. But she found a way around it Wednesday.
“My teaching assistant still has access and she granted me access from my personal email,” she said. “I feel OK with it because my principal emailed me and said to help my students in whatever ways I can.”
A few moments later, Royer was leading students with “the Day of the Week” song.
Del Valle did not respond to requests for comment.
Contributing: Nader Issa