Demanding safe schools

Notes from the 8/5/2020 issue

Demanding safe schools

CPS will do full-time remote learning for the fall semester. The reversal came a day after more than 500 cars participated in a caravan to demand Chicago Public Schools and Mayor Lori Lightfoot reconsider their initial hybrid plan that would put students back in the classroom in September. The Chicago Teachers Union also indicated their intention to have a strike vote in an upcoming emergency meeting. As COVID-19 positivity rates climb again in Chicago, with above-average rates on the South and West Sides, having Black and Latinx kids in aging, often poorly ventilated or sanitized buildings is a recipe for disaster. Although police blocked students, parents, and supporters from entering City Hall, where banners depicting John Lewis currently hang, supportive aldermen delivered their demands to the fifth floor. They included the removal of Chicago police from schools, which currently cost the district up to $152,000 a year per officer and $173,000 per sergeant; the contract is up for renewal this month. Protesters also honored the memory of Caleb Reed, a seventeen-year-old activist with Voices of Youth in Chicago Education, who fought to keep Dyett High School open and to get cops out of CPS, and whose life and promise were lost to gun violence.

 

Rent lotto

The mayor and the Departments of Housing and Family & Support Services have announced a second round of emergency rent relief, this time with a much larger pot of money from federal stimulus funds and private donations. The $33 million will get distributed in lottery form—at random—once tenants and property owners show documents that demonstrate financial hardship during the pandemic. Over 80,000 people applied unsuccessfully the first time, and those applications will get automatically considered the second time, the City said. But they are accepting new entries for a one-time $1,000 grant at chi.gov/housinghelp. Housing advocates say the assistance only covers one month’s rent, when officials should be offering more permanent solutions in the midst of a crisis, such as rent and mortgage forgiveness, rent control, and regulating luxury development. The Cook County eviction moratorium is set to end August 22.

 

South Side hospital to close

Mercy Hospital recently revealed that it will shut down in 2021. It is one of four struggling South Side hospitals, along with South Shore, St. Bernard, and Advocate Trinity, that tried to merge to build new facilities, but the ambitious plan fell through. With most of Mercy’s patients being aging Black residents, who are the demographic being hardest-hit by COVID-19, the closure of this Bronzeville hospital is expected to aggravate healthcare disparities in South Side neighborhoods during and after the crisis.

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