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‘The Kids Are Casualties in a War’

The Daily

The New York Times

News, Daily News

4.597.8K Ratings

🗓️ 13 January 2022

⏱️ 32 minutes

🧾️ Download transcript


As the highly infectious Omicron variant surged, a high-stakes battle played out between Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago and the city’s teachers’ union about how to keep schools open and safe. We chart this battle on the ground in Chicago, speaking with teachers, parents and students about the standoff.

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From New York Times, I'm Michael Obaro. This is a daily.


Over the past week, as Omicron infections surged, a high-stakes battle has played out in


Chicago, again, between the city's mayor and its teacher's union, about whether it's


safe or practical to keep schools open. Today, my colleagues Claire Tennis-Sketter and Rob


Sipco spoke with the students, teachers, and parents caught in the middle of the standoff.


It's Thursday, January 13th.


Hi, Sonia. Hi. Hi. Can you hear me? Yes. So, I would love to just start by like getting


a little bit to introduce yourself for me. Okay. My name is Sonia Johnson. I'm a special


teacher. I've been teaching in Chicago Public Schools for 21 years, and I've been teaching


in a high school for about 15 years. What has that been like in the recent past? So, winter


break, COVID surges, infection rates just climb. You know, we were constantly watching


the news and wondering, you know, if we were going to go remote, which we all were hoping


we would go remote for safety reasons. But we came back Monday, and, you know, classes


were about 50% full due to COVID outbreaks. Our principal head COVID, she was out. Our


dean, he also has COVID and was out. Wow. Serious, just staffing issues. Teachers were asked


to cover for other teachers who were absent, which I did missing my prep periods and my


lunch period. I had a student in my class with all the symptoms of COVID, and she said,


Ms. Johnson, you know, I feel really, really sick. You know, I have a sore throat, I have


a cough, I feel like I'm like getting a fever. I mean, and she said, but I was tested negative


for COVID. So, can I just sit in the hallway? So, I brought her downstairs looking for the


nurse, and I'm like, how can I send this student home? You know, we cannot have any students


with any symptoms, regardless of, you know, positive or negative COVID tests. So, anyway,


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