Taft High School Virtual Option - Chicago, IL

Taft High School Virtual Option - Chicago, IL

388 have signed. Let’s get to 500!
Petition to
Chicago Public Schools

Why this petition matters

Started by Karis Kelly

Over 330,000 Chicago Public School students are returning to in-person classes on January 3rd despite the recent surges of COVID-19 due to the newest Omicron variant. According to a quote from the Chicago Tribune, "Martinez [CPS CEO] expects “cases to be high” as students return from a two-week break with the city, state and country experiencing spikes". After a CPS class aid death from COVID at Andrew Carnegie Elementary School, it is shown that returning to school without the resources, precautions, and the recent surges is dangerous to both students and teachers.

Student safety has always been a top priority for Chicago Public Schools amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic. December 30th, 2021 alone had 30,136 new cases in the state of Illinois and 12,931 new cases in Cook County. When schooling was remote from March 2020 to June 2021 cases were at least 3x less. Returning to in-person classes is dangerous to students, teachers, staff, and families. Large and under-resourced CPS schools are in danger of outbreaks within the community. In addition, universities in Illinois and in the United States including, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Chicago, University of Chicago, Harvard University, and Yale University are delaying opening classes after Winter Break. If universities in Illinois are delaying the start of the next semester/quarter, what is stopping CPS? 

William Howard Taft High School has 4,500 students in grades 7-12 between two campuses (2500+ @ Varsity Campus). An anonymous junior who attends Taft High School proclaims, "Many students and some staff don't wear their masks correctly, and it is not rectified by administration. How can we trust that we will be safe at school?" A sophomore expressed, "Many students feel uncomfortable going back to school. And with the threat of the new variant, students feel like they’re being put in situations where they have no control over what they are exposed to COVID-wise. Having an option to take online classes would not only allow students to feel safer and more comfortable learning, but it would also decrease the number of cases in our schoolWe, students, are requesting a Virtual Option to attend school. Similar to the hybrid model from Spring 2021, students can choose to remain in-person or online for classes. This is not a permanent solution, but to keep Chicago and its communities safe during these unprecedented times, it is seen as necessary to many.  In such a diverse student body, there are many that suffer from health issues (both mental and physical) or are anxious about returning as well. Students who fear for their health if they go to school in person should not be forced to do so. 

In a recent newsletter from Taft Principal, Mark Grishaber writes, "Taft recommends KF94/KN95/N95 masks". These masks are more protective from various droplet and airborne illnesses, but Taft and/or CPS are not supplying these to students. It is great that the administration is recommending these, but in a school with 49.4% low-income students, most cannot find or afford these masks. KF94/KN95/N95 masks are either sold out or $50+ for a 20 pack. This is not a reasonable expectation to place on students and their families, as well as the teachers and staff.

Although the learning loss from remote education is severe, there are always opportunities to optimize and improve the education once returning to remote learning. Some possibilities to help mitigate learning loss during an online option could include:

  • Providing online peer and/or teacher tutor programmes at all schools
  • Allow student input on how to make it better
  • Widespread free resource sharing from CPS - i.e Khan Academy, Coursera, EdX, College Board, etc.
  • Involved families and/or communities in education

Overall, students want to be in school with the support of the Taft community, but at this time we need to have an online option for the safety of our city. COVID cases are at an all-time high, proper PPE is inaccessible, and learning loss can be helped during a remote period. We are not requesting for the whole school to resume remote learning but allowing the option of choice for the safety of ourselves, teachers, and families.







388 have signed. Let’s get to 500!