Teachers Union urges that Chicago schools be closed because of 'life-threatening cold' after CPS officials told 400,000 children that schools would be open

The Chicago Teachers Union on Sunday January 5, 2014, urged Chicago public schools officials to close the city's more than 600 public schools as a band of what the United States Weather Service is calling "life-threatening cold" bears down on the city following more than a foot of snow in most sections of Chicago. The suggestion by the union was made after union teachers and officials, including union members who are also parents of public school children, heard throughout the day that the announcement by CPS that the schools would be "open" were unwise -- or worse. On Saturday, January 4, the nation's third largest school district issued a robo call to all parents telling parents that schools could be open on Monday, January 6, 2014, despite the threat of almost unprecedented cold.

Critics asked whether Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer was the second top city official who was out of town when the heavy snow and unprecedented cold descended on the city over the weekend of January 3 - 5 2014. Byrd Bennett has retained her home in Solon, Ohio, since she was first hired as a consultant by CPS nearly two years ago, and often commutes to the Cleveland areas on weekends. Above, Byrd Bennett at the December 18 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Substance photo by David Vance. The questions by teachers and others come as the temperature in Jakarta, Indonesia, rose above 80 degrees. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his family have been on vacation in Indonesia for more than a week. Every year, Emanuel takes his family vacation during the winter holiday season -- no matter what the issues may be at home.

Emanuel was not at a recent press event held regarding the city's emergency management provisions for dealing with the cold, and the event was obviously disorganized. CPS officials were also absent from the meeting, which featured the main emergency management officials for the City of Chicago arriving nearly a half hour late for their emergency meeting on their emergency procedures. Earlier in the day the "Mayor's Press Office," which issues several daily press releases on the doings of the city's mayor, noted that there are "no public events" scheduled for Rahm Emanuel in Chicago on January 5, 2014.

Critics of the mayor also noted that the University of Chicago Lab School would be closed because of the unprecedented cold. The Emanuel children, when they are not on vactiion in the tropics, attend the University of Chicago Lab Schools.

Also closed will be all of the elementary and high schools in Chicago's northern suburbs, including Rahm Emanuel's alma mater, New Trier HIgh School in Winnetka.

Chicago Mayor Michael Bilandic (above outside City Hall after the Blizzard of 1979 found him in Florida) lost his job to Jane Byrne because he downplayed the importance of leading the city when the massive snowfall buried his home town. When the deadliest cold of the 21st Century closed in on Chicago on January 5, 2014, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was more than 10,000 miles from City Hall, on vacation in Indonesia and giving no indication that he saw an emergency. But his privatization drive against the city's public schools had left the nation's third largest school system with "carpet baggers" in charge, and nobody at the top of Chicago Public Schools knew enough about Chicago community realities to understand the dangers across the city to more than 400,000 children. Rumor was that Emanuel's hand picked "Chief Executive Officer," Barbara Byrd Bennett, was, as usual at her Ohio home when the weather crisis hit.Critics are also waiting for a public appearance by Chicago Public Schools "Chief Executive Officer" Barbara Byrd Bennett, who often spends her weekends at her Ohio home. Byrd Bennett's spokesman, Joel Hood, told the press earlier on January 5, 2014, that CPS officials would be holding a conference call about the issues facing the city's schools in late afternoon on January 5. Hood did not say where Byrd Bennett would be physically at the time of the conference call. Reporters have been wondering whether Hood, who covered CPS for the Chicago Tribune before a recent round of budget cuts by Tribune Corporation, has reportedly been trying to open up the CPS "Communications Department" after more than two years of attempts at media manipulation by the department's "Chief Officer" ($165,000 a year) Becky Carroll, who has become infamous for cover-ups, denials of public information, and childish attempts to turn the news into propaganda for the Emanuel administration.


CPS teachers union makes demand: Close schools Monday. Staff report. 3:40 p.m. CST, January 5, 2014

While many suburban school districts and area colleges have been choosing to close school Monday because of the threat of dangerously cold temperatures, the Chicago Teachers Union today criticized the decision by Chicago Public Schools to open their schools Monday.

"Right now, CPS and the City of Chicagos Office of Emergency Management are sending confusing and mixed messages to the public about what to do," said CTU President Karen Lewis in an e-mailed statement. "We believe common sense would dictate that CPS should close schools with at least 10 inches of snow already on the ground and a record-breaking low temperature of -10 degrees forecast for Monday."

The statement "demanded that Chicago Public Schools demonstrate concern for the health and safety of children and staff by closing its 600+ school buildings on Monday, January 6, 2014."

CPS officials will be on a conference call later this afternoon to discuss Mondays forecast, according to CPS spokesman Joel Hood. Unless CPS leadership decides otherwise, the district will keep all schools open and move forward with the plan outlined on Friday, Hood said.

The weather is going to dictate (what we do), Hood said. Im not suggesting that were going to change our decision. We were asked to check in today.

Building engineers have been out at the schools today to ensure boilers are turned on and working properly, said Hood.

I havent been made aware of any problems, he said.

Michael Harrington, director of operations for the teachers union, said union leadership has heard from dozens and dozens and dozens of teachers worried about students not having adequate clothing to stay warm during the subzero temperatures and extreme wind chill.

They run out of scarfs, they run out of gloves kids are not prepared for this weather, Harrington said. Teachers are already doing their best to keep them warm.

He added that the union, which represents 25,000 teachers throughout the CPS system, is also concerned about proper heating within all school buildings, given that Monday is the first day back after the districts holiday break.

At many schools the boilers havent been touched (or) are not working, he said.

While parents have the option of keeping their children home from school, teachers do not and theyre still trying to find ways to get to school regardless of the dangerous conditions, Harrington said.

Several suburban school districts will announce this afternoon whether they will keep schools open tomorrow. New Trier High School District 203 will not be in session on Monday and cancelled all practices and actitivites on the campus. District 214 in the Northwest suburbs is also closed.

School officials in Deerfield, Highland Park, Romeoville, Batavia and many other Chicago suburbs have already decided to close all district schools on Monday.

"The National Weather Service has indicated that any outside activity will be dangerous," southwest suburban Valley View Community Unit School District 365U Superintendent James Mitchem said in a statement Sunday. "With roughly 11,000 children waiting for buses in this district and thousands of others walking to school every day, I cannot, in good conscience, put even one child at risk when the missed day can easily be made up at the end of the school year."

Northwestern University will also be closed because of severe weather, officials said today. All classes will be canceled and libraries and offices will be closed on both the Evanston and Chicago campuses, officials said. All classes were cancelled at the University of Chicago including the laboratory schools and all four campuses.

District 203 in Naperville has also announced that all district schools will be closed.

Evanston Township High School also announced that it's canceling classes on Monday for its nearly 3,000 students. Evanston/Skokie School District 65 had already announced on its website there will be no classes on Monday due to "extremely low temperatures" in the forecast

District 41 in Glen Ellyn, and some others have said they would continue to monitor the weather through Sunday afternoon before making a decision.

In Chicago, parents have the option of keeping their children home from school. CPS officials have said that if a parent calls in to notify their child will not be attending, the student's absence will be excused.

A full list of school closings is available on the WGN Radio Emergency Closing Center.


January 6, 2014 at 1:14 AM

By: John Kugler

MIA. Byrd Bennett stranded in Ohio?

Rumor is all flights from Cleveland have been canceled. That is why "Triple B" has not been on the news in Chicago.

January 6, 2014 at 1:18 AM

By: Bob Busch

Karen Lewis -- true leader for the kids...

Karen Lewis, by speaking out, has again shown she is a real leader. Now to Chicago families on this coldest day of the century -- keep yourselves and your kids safe.

January 6, 2014 at 7:05 PM

By: Bob Busch


Dear Casey

Teachers will make up these days in the glorious month of June when there is little chance of a kid freezing to death in a snowbank.

January 6, 2014 at 9:26 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

Substance comment policy

Substance's editors just deleted a comment signed "Casey" because the entity making the comment did not provide our readers, as we require, with its first and last name. To repeat: Our comments are open to those with whom we may disagree (within the limits of defamation law), but are not open to trolls and anonymous blowhards. Those who wish to comment here must provide our readers with their real first name and last name. We delete anyone who refuses to do that immediately. As a result, Bob Busch's comment (above) floats because he is responding to a troll who wanted to go on about whether teachers get paid. Should the troll become a person, the comment will remain here. But we do not waste so much as a minute on entities that want to "comment" without sharing their name with us and our readers.

January 6, 2014 at 9:38 PM

By: John Whitfield

Is it about $ ?

The Art Institute of Chicago was the only museum that stayed open. Some there in housekeeping felt that they remained open knowing damn well many of the under paid workers would call in, and would have to use their days that they had saved. Could this be the case with CPS also, with the number of anticipated teacher vehicles that would not start, subs included, and in complete disregard for young students? That is, to save a few lousy dollars.

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