Live updates

Thousands of students in Chicago and across the US protest unsafe return to schools

Educators and autoworkers energized by student walkouts: “The kids are right! We all need a mass walkout!”

Educators, autoworkers and other workers from across the United States and around the world sent statements to the World Socialist Web Site supporting the initiative taken by students in Chicago, Boston and other cities on Friday.

Responding to a request from WSWS writer Sandy English, multiple educators from New York City and Australia tweeted their support:

Loading Tweet ...
Tweet not loading? See it directly on Twitter
Loading Tweet ...
Tweet not loading? See it directly on Twitter
Loading Tweet ...
Tweet not loading? See it directly on Twitter
Loading Tweet ...
Tweet not loading? See it directly on Twitter
Loading Tweet ...
Tweet not loading? See it directly on Twitter

Autoworkers across the Midwest have responded enthusiastically to the student walkouts in Chicago and across the country, as the Omicron variant ravages auto plants and workplaces across the country.

An autoworker at General Motors’ Wentzville Assembly plant near St. Louis said: “I think the kids are right. It’s their lives, health and future.”

An autoworker from Ford Kansas City Assembly Plant (KCAP) said, “I think the students are correct. How do we all unite? It’s going to take everybody is going to have to do a mass walkout. Some workers don’t have a union, and the unions that are there are not being upfront with their people. We all need a mass walkout, organizing, saying I’ve had enough.”

Regarding conditions at KCAP, he stated, “Ten people who died at KCAP since Christmas from COVID. Heard it from a retired union committeeman. The union did not say anything about it from the plant. They’re protecting the company.”

He denounced the medical experts hired by the ruling class to whitewash the spread of COVID-19. “It’s for economics. They don’t want to shut down but I think they’re not going to have any other choice. A lot of people who are positive are going to work because they have to pay their bills, they’re in a hell of a crunch. Fauci and Walensky are on the side of the elite class and the rich people. They don’t want people staying at home.”

Ronda, a grandparent of a student in Detroit, Michigan, told the WSWS, “I say to the students in Chicago good job. For so long they’ve been saying that children couldn’t get COVID, so them walking out shows that these kids are smart enough to figure things out. They have their own mind. I also think they want to protect the teachers because the teachers have been trying to explain what is going on with COVID in the schools.

“They think ‘if we walk out they can’t blame the teachers.’ They are not telling the children in the schools if someone is sick or if they find out someone is sick. The kids care coming back to school and saying, ‘I’m not gonna deal with this. I’m not gonna come back and sit next to someone who is sick.’ The employers don’t care about their employees’ children, they just care about their companies and their parents coming into work. It’s all about the money!”

Thousands of Chicago students walkout to protest unsafe return to schools

Thousands of Chicago Public School (CPS) students walked out across more than 30 of the city’s schools to protest the unsafe return to classrooms agreed to by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) leadership with Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Hundreds of students converged at the CPS headquarters downtown to protest. One of the primary chants was, “Hey hey, ho ho! Lori Lightfoot has got to go!”

Loading Tweet ...
Tweet not loading? See it directly on Twitter

Initially organized by Chicago Public Schools’ Radical Youth Alliance (Chi-RADs) in response to CTU shutting down the courageous remote job action of over 25,000 teachers, the protest has gotten a powerful response from thousands of working class students. The walkouts have also received the support of teachers and parents who opposed the unsafe CTU-CPS deal.

Loading Tweet ...
Tweet not loading? See it directly on Twitter

“We want our voices to be heard. We understand that the teachers are looking out for us. ... we want to take part in that and support them,” one student told the WSWS walking out of a high school.

Loading Tweet ...
Tweet not loading? See it directly on Twitter

Another student said, “A lot of people are getting sick. A lot of people are dying.”

Lightfoot and the Democratic Party have feigned concern for the mental health of students in order to carry out their homicidal school reopening campaign. While students do face a real mental health crisis, many recognize that the danger of catching COVID-19 in schools is far worse. One student told the WSWS, “They are lying! It's a scam ... they are making people feel more scared by being in school.”

“The mental health thing is a lie,” another student added. “Being at school builds up anxiety because a lot of people have COVID and don’t know they have it.”

Loading Tweet ...
Tweet not loading? See it directly on Twitter

Jared, a senior at Benito Juarez Community Academy, told the WSWS, “I’m protesting because CPS has decided not to enable remote learning in this time of need, and we need to secure the safety as well as the rightful education of all the students at CPS.”

Regarding the wave of student struggles across the US, Jared said, “It’ll definitely get the motion going all around the country, not only here but everywhere else.” He added, “If we can stick together and don’t budge, we can definitely go through with this.”

Loading Tweet ...
Tweet not loading? See it directly on Twitter

Schools are currently the top source of spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in Illinois, with over 41 percent of cases reported, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health. According to the city of Chicago’s COVID data, the daily average for hospitalizations is 196 and 21 deaths daily. The test positivity is very high at 17.7 percent, officially.

At the same time, testing in the city of Chicago, as across the country, is a complete disaster. Students, parents, teachers and workers across the city have struggled to find testing locations for either PCR or antigen tests in a timely manner.

The CTU-CPS deal puts thousands of teachers, students and the wider community at risk as COVID-19 spreads primarily through aerosols and many students and teachers have only been given poor masks to wear in classrooms. The only mitigation measures that will be implemented are meager testing along with the distribution of up to two KN-95 or N-95 masks. Some teachers have reported they have only received one.

While school administrators are emailing teachers and parents of ongoing outbreaks at schools, they claim the schools will be “deep cleaned” and will be safe for everyone to return to by Tuesday. But according to school staff, this is not the case.

Mary, a custodian at CPS, shared her support for the student walkouts on Facebook, writing, “I'm glad they are walking out. The schools are not ready for the children. The custodian workers do not have enough time to clean all the rooms that are expected to be clean in a couple hours. They need to have an overnight shift.

“I worked for a cleaning company. I quit because there was so much to do in one school and one building in eight hours, but you still need more time and they need to hire more people to clean.

“You still have schools that do not have ventilation. Why did they vote to let these children back in the school? I don't agree with it at all.”

Another parent, Jenny, wrote in support of the student walkouts, “As a parent of a high school student at Lane Tech, I agree!!! Wishing I could post a pic here of the hallways. It's an indoor Lollapalooza everyday.”

Follow developments on the IYSSE Twitter page.

Seattle students and teachers stage walkouts over lack of COVID safety protocols in schools

Students at Franklin High School in Seattle, Washington, initiated a walkout on Friday, calling for increased safety measures and for remote learning as Omicron rips through the schools and the community. Many schools throughout the Seattle area closed this week as the rampant spread of COVID-19 caused major staffing shortages.

Franklin High School has the highest infection rate in the entire school district, with Roosevelt High School tailing behind, according to the Seattle Public Schools COVID-19 Dashboard. It recorded 52 cases in the first week of school alone, an under-count of the real rate of infection as testing sites are overwhelmed throughout the city.

Alongside the walkout of high school students, teachers at Chief Sealth International High School in Seattle also staged a sickout Friday in response to the rise in infections at the school and the lack of safety protocols.

They are calling for the district to provide KN95 and N95 masks, weekly on-site testing, the hiring of more staff, and increased funding for mental health resources. If these conditions are not met, they call for the closure of schools and for a remote learning option.

Rebecca Neil, a Chief Sealth International High School science teacher said in an online post, “The system is broken and Seattle Public Schools has failed to provide necessary protections on so many levels. So much of what we are facing was preventable with strategic planning and preparation, and Seattle Public Schools district leadership failed to act.”

In response to the action by the teachers, the school administration decided to fully close the high school on Friday without providing remote instruction.

Despite the mass infection and sickness taking place, all schools in Seattle are scheduled to return to in-person classes on Tuesday, sending over 50,000 students and staff into overcrowded, poorly-ventilated buildings where COVID-19 will spread like wildfire.

The students at Franklin High School are demanding that schools implement safety measures or they will not return, with many students calling for remote learning and the closure of schools until it is actually safe to return. The list of demands on the Change.org petition call on the district to:

  • Provide N95 masks for all
  • Perform weekly required covid testing at school
  • Continue contact tracing
  • Provide Covid-19 vaccines including booster shots, available at school
  • Update the district’s Covid-19 dashboard daily
  • Provide 1 mental health therapist for every 30 students.

There is broad support for the action of the high school students throughout the state. Their petition has been signed by more than 800 people as of Friday afternoon. One student at Kamiak High School, in Mukilteo, north of Seattle, told the WSWS, “At school, we’ve had children test positive in the library. It’s unfair quite honestly. When we look at the chart for COVID cases in our county, we’ve had up to 3 times more COVID cases compared to the initial outbreak when we went into lockdown. The numbers are growing and our measly precautions are not preventing sickness. Human life should be above all.”

The Franklin High School students said they decided to join the movement initiated by students nationally for the closure of unsafe schools and other COVID safety protocols.

The way forward for high school students in the fight against the pandemic and the reopening of schools

High school students throughout the country are on the move! Thousands of students from Oakland, California to New York City are organizing opposition to the unsafe return to in-person learning amid a massive surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

On Tuesday, tens of thousands of students in New York City walked out of their classrooms in over 30 schools to protest the unsafe conditions. The action, organized through social media, forced the closure of several schools throughout the city.

Nearly a thousand students have signed onto a district wide online student petition in Oakland, California, stating that students “are not comfortable going to school with the rising cases of COVID-19.” The students are fighting for an end to in-person learning and proper PPE and testing if and when they do return to the classroom.

Read the statement of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE)

Students, educators and parents angered over Chicago Teachers Union deal to reopen schools

Anger is mounting against the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU)’s betrayal of the life-and-death concerns of teachers, students and parents. On Monday, the CTU reached a miserable agreement with Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the CPS, in line with the Biden administration and the teachers unions, to keep schools open.

The agreement shut down the collective action of 25,000 teachers who voted overwhelmingly to stop unsafe in-person learning in the school district, which is facing unprecedented levels of COVID-19 cases. The rapid surge of Omicron cases over December and January across the country and the Chicago area spread throughout schools and workplaces, provoking widespread concern among teachers, workers and students.

The CTU leadership in the House of Delegates hastily stopped the remote job action this week and sent teachers back to schools before they even had a chance to vote on the agreement. On Wednesday, the CTU claimed the agreement passed by 55.4 percent of teachers in favor. Yet over 20 percent did not vote at all, meaning only 44 percent voted for the deal, which the CTU promoted as the best deal they could get.

Read the rest of this article.

Students in Portland, Oregon issue call to action to close schools

In the Parkrose School District in Portland, six schools have been forced to close due to staffing shortages. Durham Elementary School in the Tigard-Tualatin School District closed Monday in preparation for virtual instruction. Many more schools across Oregon are also beginning to close in response to the surge in infection.

One Portland high school student said on Facebook that they “do not feel safe here. Kids are catching covid every day and still attending school so they don’t miss out on sports and class. If I don’t come to school, I fail and if I do come I risk catching covid. I’d like to know how you plan to handle this because it’s almost finals and all of my teachers are out sick and idk how I’m gonna be able to prepare for finals.”

Schools across the Pacific Northwest have also closed due to the sheer number of COVID-19 infections taking place among staff and students.

Read the rest of this article.

Opposition by educators and students to in-person classes mounts as COVID-19 infections surge across US

The past two weeks since K-12 schools reopened across the US have proven to be an unprecedented disaster for working families amid the ongoing Omicron surge. Millions of staff and students have been infected, resulting in forced school closures and an explosion of opposition from educators, students and parents to unsafe schools.

Despite repeated claims by the political establishment and corporate media that “schools are safe,” infections among children have skyrocketed to record levels since schools reopened after the holiday break. According to the latest American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) child COVID-19 report, more than 905,587 children ages 0-17 have contracted the virus since January 3. Pediatric hospitalizations continue to surge with the latest daily average at 870 per day. Based on the official reports from the CDC, a staggering 50 children have died from COVID-19 since January 4.

Given the lack of systematic testing, contact tracing and reporting throughout the country, these numbers are undoubtedly far higher. Mass infection among students and staff has forced thousands of school closures across the country in recent weeks. According to the burbio.com School Closings Tracker, at least 9,641 schools have closed temporarily since January 3 due to staffing shortages.

Read the rest of this article.