Some Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students are organizing a district-wide walkout on Friday in protest of the district’s decision to return to in-person instruction amid a citywide surge in COVID-19 cases. 

Students are hoping that the walkout brings awareness to the need for remote learning options. Since CPS schools initially returned to in-person classes at the start of the 2021-2022 school year, students and teachers have frequently had to pivot between in-person and virtual instruction, as outbreaks within individual school buildings have occurred.

Chi-Rads is one of the organizers of the walkout. The group is a newly-formed youth organization that stands for Chicago Public Schools Radical Youth Alliance. According to their Twitter account, they will be walking out of schools across the district at 12:30 p.m. on Friday.

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The walkout announcement comes after the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) House of Delegates voted on Monday to suspend its labor action to switch from in-person to remote learning during their negotiations with CPS.

The union’s goal seemed to be securing a deal that would ensure that schools had sufficient COVID-19 safety mitigations in place before continuing with in-person classes. After a week of tense negotiations, including CTU labor action and teacher lock-out, CPS and the union reached an agreement on COVID-19 safety mitigations in school buildings. A majority vote this evening from the CTU’s rank-and-file members approved the agreement.

When asked about the walkout, CTU organizer Jhoanna Maldonado spoke to The TRiiBE on behalf of the union. She described herself as a supporter, fan and collaborator of Chi-Rad.

“We’ve been in touch with the organizers. We support their work. We make each other question and push forward and we are happy to be collaborators. The young people have led this. This is a student led space. The students absolutely need to be centered and at the [negotiation] table, Maldonado said. “These conversations need to go far beyond masks, beyond ventilation. These youth have experienced a level of trauma that is unheard of and they have been left to deal with it while having only one counselor per school.”

While CTU and CPS have reached a tentative agreement in play, some students remain unsatisfied with the conditions in their school buildings.

Students across the country have staged walkouts and other demonstrations in response to their own desire for online options. Video of a walkout at Brooklyn Tech in New York City surfaced on Twitter on Tuesday. Besides the one in New York, students in Redondo Beach, California, Boston, and Oakland have organized protest actions due to their own frustrations with the conditions in their public schools during the pandemic.

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Historically students have always been left out of discussions about how their schools are managed, meanwhile both teachers and school district leadership suggest that they are acting in the students’ best interests during negotiations. 

“The position every other stakeholder has in this is from an observant view. Teachers are with us at school. Parents are with us at home. Administrators aren’t even really with us, they just control us,” Judai Smith, a junior at Kenwood Academy who is a member of the student organization Chi-Rads, told The TRiiBE this week. “None of them can feel the full impact that the failures of this system are having on our lives the way that students do. We are the ones living it.” 

Chi-Rads — alongside countless other students — have been vocal about their dissatisfaction with CPS’ response to COVID-19. 

“We stand with ourselves, our own safety, our own health,” the Twitter posts stated. “We keep us safe, we keep us loved. Please stay in tune with our social medias for more updates!”

You can read more about students’ experience learning in CPS schools throughout the pandemic here.

Here is a list of the demands that Chi-Rads sent to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Chicago Department Public Health (CDPH) Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady and CPS CEO Pedro Martinez:

is a staff writer with The TRiiBE. Email him with news tips.