January 14th, marked a CPS-wide protest by the city’s student body. This protest, organized by a group of “allied, radical CPS high schoolers,” who call themselves Chi-RADS, was prompted due to the sudden welcome back to in-person learning while in the middle of the surge of the Omicron variant, leaving students confused and outraged. There was a variety of reasons that lead to this protest including schools not following COVID safety guidelines, confusing instructions on how to stay safe while in school, and much more.
For Chi Arts, the protest was massively supported by other students, as the school struggled greatly with the COVID safety precautions. The protest took place from 12:30 PM to 1:45 PM, lapping around the school. The students that led the Chi Arts walkout spoke out about why they decided to take part in the protest. Isabella Reyes, a senior, stated, “We basically came out here today to demand more safety precautions, as well as a safer environment.” This isn’t the first time students have questioned Chi Arts’ ability to keep everyone safe, even going farther to state that there simply isn’t enough action being taken.
Jadon Gladstein, a Chi Arts junior and a member of the protest group CSFAl (Chi Arts Student Fighting for Action) also commented. “We have a nine-hour school day. We had three new COVID cases just this week, within four days. That’s 75 percent of our week that there’s a COVID case and that needs to change.”
Although established at short notice, the protest was deemed a success. A surge of students participated by chanting phrases such as “Who keeps us safe? We do!” and “Hey hey, ho ho, Lori Lightfoot’s got to go!”Jé Thorton, another junior of Chi Arts and another member of CSFA, spoke as a voice that demands for the administration to take Chi Arts’ students more seriously. “I’m hoping that administration and any other people involved in this process will start taking us seriously when we say that the people inside of the school do not feel safe or protected, and that what’s being done at the moment simply isn’t enough.”
Reynia Torres, a student at Curie Metropolitan High School and a part of Chi-RADS, is all about speaking her mind. “I’m being the voice for the voiceless and I believe if I keep using my voice it will make a difference because we are youth, we are a community. I feel like I had people who understand what I was dealing with and why I was mad. At this point we are no longer asking for remote learning, we are demanding it. We will ditch class just to prove a point.”
Many students sported hand-made protest signs. At the very end of the protest, a speech of demands was given by Reyes to the crowd demanding that funding of the city change from the police to COVID safety precautions that are needed by the schools and the students. Gladstein added how there simply just aren’t enough COVID tests, decent air purifiers, and resources to keep staff and students safe.
Demands from the students go past just Chi Arts, with schools all around Chicago demanding the same thing together: Safety and proper protection from COVID-19. Students are now hoping for action to be taken as soon as possible. We want more effort made to keeping all CPS students safe. One thing is for certain, this sudden showcase of community and strength shown by students all throughout Chicago proves that through unity comes a voice that’s heard.
By Sasha Gonzalez, Junior, Chi Arts
*Christopher Lockridge (Instagram @Lockotb) contributed to this article.