LINCOLN SQUARE — Dozens of school communities across Chicago are planning to take part in a nationwide "walk-in" on Wednesday, raising heightened safety concerns within CPS.
In a letter sent home with students and signed by CPS CEO Forrest Claypool and Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson, parents were warned:
"[Chicago Teachers Union] has organized a 'walk-in' at many schools. This means CTU members and their supporters may gather outside the school building in the morning to voice their concerns about the ongoing contract negotiations. They may then attempt to walk into the school building as a group in a form of civil disobedience."
CPS' Office of Safety and Security is working with principals to develop a response, the letter stated, particularly as some of the participants may be "unknown to either the organizers or to the school community."
While many parents appreciated CPS' preparedness, some were offended by the note, and its presumption that those taking part in the walk-in wouldn't include moms and dads.
"So they're protecting us parents by warning us that us parents may try to walk into our kids schools, which we are welcome to do every every day, but if we pick a day and come in together, that is civil disobedience?" one parent questioned on the Facebook page of Raise Your Hand.
Others objected to the characterization of the walk-in as a contract negotiating tactic or form of protest.
Organizers of the walk-in at Waters Elementary, 4540 N. Campbell Ave., encouraged participants to bring coffee and hot chocolate, enjoy some camaraderie and "show our love for Waters."
As a nod to safety and out of respect for the school's learning environment, organizers at Waters also specified that the group would not be entering the building.
Depending on a school's starting time, the walk-ins are set to take place as early as 6:30 a.m. at some high schools or 7:45 a.m. at some elementary schools, and last for 30-45 minutes.
Walk-ins are expected everywhere from selected enrollment high schools including Lane Tech, Whitney Young and Walter Payton to North Side elementary schools like Waters to a broad coalition of South Side schools. Also included are walk-ins at Vaughn Occupational High School and Hitch Elementary School in Jefferson Park, and Zapata Academy in Little Village.
Swift Elementary in Edgewater held an individual walk-in back in November — attended by the school's principal, teachers, parents and Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) — to call for an elected school board and increased state funding.
According to the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, which is coordinating walk-ins across 30 cities, the intent is to provide a "positive action that says that these are our schools and our communities."
In Chicago, the walk-ins are taking place not only during ongoing contract negotiations between the teachers union and CPS, but also in the midst of a state budget impasse and following in the wake of another round of school budget cuts.
Rallying cries include "Fair funding," "We love our schools" and "We love our teachers."
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