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Lori Lightfoot Forces Educators to Teach in a Snowstorm

“My fellow staff members and I spent 40 minutes digging our cars out of the snow.” A Chicago teacher writes about the unsafe conditions that schools are staying open in.

Hala Karim

February 3, 2022
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A snowy street in Chicago, people shovel snow.
Image: Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

On Wednesday February 2, up to 10 inches of snow fell across Chicago. In the midst of this winter snowstorm, Lori Lightfoot demanded that schools remain open. This comes only a few weeks after Lori Lightfoot closed the schools when teachers demanded remote learning. Here we publish an account by Hala Karim, a Chicago teacher, about her day at work.

Today, I woke up annoyed to find that our mayor once again prioritized political interests over the safety of CPS staff and students.

Knowing my car is unreliable in the snow, so I considered getting an Uber. The cost to take me 5 miles to my job was around $60 and the wait was half an hour, so I resigned to driving to school, which was  open. During my commute, I passed billboards citing a statewide weather emergency. My brakes struggled through the icy streets, and I came dangerously close to rear ending a plow truck 

At school, we had 10 students in our entire grade present.

Numbers of staff members justifiably stayed home, so the day was A Babysitting Day.

While leaving, my fellow staff members and I spent forty minutes digging our cars out of the snow that accumulated over the course of the day. My car still wouldn’t budge, so two kind colleagues gave my car a push.  

30 yards later, my car was stuck again on one of the many unplowed Chicago side streets. A man walking by asked if I needed a push, asked if I was a teacher— he was, too!- and helped me out.


However, once I was back in my neighborhood, my car got stuck two more times—once for over an hour—and both times, I had to rely on the kindness of neighbors to help me out. Both times, I cursed out the mayor under my breath.

I should not have been put in a position to choose to risk my safety several times or not report to work today. We could have very easily had a virtual learning day. Instead, I received dozens of students emails curious about assignments I posted but confused due to lack of direct instruction. 

I regret risking my safety so many times and I regret that we live in a society in which our elected officials brazenly put us and our kids in harm’s way!

The students and staff in Chicago Public Schools deserve safe and accessible schools, whether that be in person or virtually. The mayor could have started preparing for virtual learning long ago, but the fact is she does not care if our students are learning or not. Being in person in hazardous conditions, whether it be inclement weather or a raging pandemic, is not addressing learning loss. Our abysmal attendance demonstrates that. The many roads on the south side that remained unplowed despite mandating in person learning yesterday demonstrates that, as well. Lori Lightfoot simply wants political control over our schools. As a result, we were put in danger to acquiesce to her demands as most suburban school districts surrounding Chicago transitioned to remote learning or used an emergency day. 

While it certainly restored some faith I have in my community, the city has the responsibility to create safe conditions for schools. We should’t have to rely on our empathetic neighbors to keep us safe.

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