Connect with us

Living

Chicago begins return to classrooms after bitter union fight

Published

on

Chicago begins return to classrooms after bitter union fight

CHICAGO — Chicago parents Willie and Brittany Preston have spent nearly a year wrestling with online school schedules for their six children, often with everyone hovered over devices around the dining room table.

Starting Thursday, they’ll get relief. Their youngest daughter, 4-year-old Lear, returns to class as the nation’s third-largest school district slowly reopens its doors following a bitter fight with the teachers union over COVID-19 safety protocols.

Willie Preston, who runs a small construction firm with his wife, said there’s no place that can guarantee a coronavirus-free environment but he feels safe with the district’s steps: cleaned buildings, daily health screenings, new air filters and required masks.

“We just are not trained educators and we recognize our limitations,” he said. “For me as a parent, it makes me feel like we’re beating COVID and we’re going to get our lives back. And that’s good.”

In the next few weeks, four of his children will go back as part of the district’s gradual reopening plans for pre-K-8. The Chicago Teachers Union accepted the plan after weeks of bitter talks that included defying district orders, threats from the city that they would be locked out of district teaching and a potential strike.

Under the deal, the city will set aside 1,500 vaccinations each week for teachers after an initial 2,000 doses for those who are returning first. There are also metrics allowing for schools to shut down when infections spike, for instance outbreaks in multiple classrooms over a short period. The agreement also makes plans for teachers who are at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 or take care of someone who is.

Preston’s two high school children will keep learning online at their home on the South Side. The district hasn’t rolled out a plan for high school students to return, which is expected to prompt more negotiations.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has argued for months that schools needed to reopen. She’s said since going fully remote in March, online learning hasn’t served many in the roughly 340,000-student district, particularly Black and Latino students who comprise the majority.

Schools worldwide have grappled with the same issue, including union disputes in Philadelphia. New York City announced this week that it would reopen middle schools after closing during a virus surge in November. Some are contemplating continuing remote learning in the fall.

In Chicago, students in pre-K and special education briefly returned last month, including Preston’s youngest daughter, before stopping amid an intensifying fight with the union.

Even after agreeing to the district’s safety plan this week, the union continued arguing that that the district hasn’t done enough to protect teachers and too few students have been interested in returning. Roughly 3,200 pre-K and special education students briefly returned last month, about 19 percent of those eligible. In a December parent survey, about 77,000 of eligible students said they wanted to return, but it’s unclear how many will show up.

Many parents remain skeptical.

Rosa Esquivel said she won’t send her two children, ages 10 and 12, because she doesn’t believe that the schools will be safe from the virus that hit her mother and sister and killed an aunt and uncle in her native Guatemala.

She worries that her diabetes and her husband’s high blood pressure could put their own lives at risk if their kids brought the virus home from school. And they have no idea when they will get access to the vaccine.

“We just thought it was best for us to have the kids stay remote,” said the 40-year-old Esquivel, who lives in the predominantly Hispanic Pilsen neighborhood. Esquivel said she struggles with anxiety because of infections in her family and she doesn’t want to worry anymore.

Single mother Natassia Ballard, who lives on the city’s South Side, said she’s holding off for now, but may change her mind when the weather improves and flu season ends.

She wants to know that the teachers her two elementary-age children interact with are vaccinated. But it has been hard. One son has autism and is missing out on hands-on learning from class.

“He really wonders how he will fit in when the world opens up again,” she said.

Preston said his youngest child was looking forward to Thursday and seeing friends again. She cried when her school closed again last month.

Preston, part of a citizen group called the Black Community Collaborative, said they’ve had to make sacrifices over the past year. His wife has scaled back work at the firm to oversee six school schedules. Online classes present their own problems, like when teachers’ internet cuts out and the kids insist on video games or watch television. And if his high school students can’t focus working in their rooms, they must “report to the dining room,” he joked.

“These kids are exhausted from being essentially locked in for a year and that’s hard,” he said.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Living

Deep Nostalgia tool animates photos with creepy results

Published

on

By

Deep Nostalgia tool animates photos with creepy results

This technology was built in the name of nostalgia but is being used in the name of nonsense.

Late last month, genealogy website MyHeritage announced a new tool for animating photos called “Deep Nostalgia.” But while the tech was intended to let users “bring beloved ancestors back to life” and “experience your family history like never before,” many internet denizens have been finding other far less wholesome applications for it. 

“So I wanted to know how the recent #DeepLearning facial animations services do with busts and decided to give that botched Christiano Ronaldo statue a spin,” one Twitter user captioned a “#DeeplyDisturbed” video created with the MyHeritage software to show the bronze bust uncannily moving about. 

An animated version of the Mona Lisa is less disturbing, but still unsettling. 

“Since that #DeepNostalgia thing is gaining popularity, I found something that #InternetNeverForgets,” tweeted another user who experimented with the software to animate Beyoncé’s face mid-performance. 

“Frederick Douglass, the mighty abolitionist, was the single most photographed person in the United States during the nineteenth century. Here’s how he might’ve looked in motion. Brace yourself and press play,” tweeted a user who decided to use the tool for something closer to its intended purpose. 

MyHeritage is aware that the tool — created using tech developed by deep-learning company D-ID — could thrust photos deep into weird territory.

“Some people love the Deep Nostalgia™ feature and consider it magical, while others find it creepy and dislike it,” the company wrote in Deep Nostalgia’s FAQ section. “Indeed, the results can be controversial and it’s hard to stay indifferent to this technology.” 

With that in mind, MyHeritage invites users to “please use this feature on your own historical photos and not on photos featuring living people without their permission.” As well, the ability to include speech in the videos has purposefully not been included in order to “prevent abuse.” 

Continue Reading

Living

Benefits of microdosing LSD are purely placebo: study

Published

on

By

Benefits of microdosing LSD are purely placebo: study

The positive impacts of microdosing hallucinogens may be no more than a hallucination, researchers have found.

Microdosing — or the practice of regularly using low doses of psychedelic drugs including LSD and psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms — has become a relatively mainstream practice thanks to its trendiness in Silicon Valley, where CEOs, including Steve Jobs, have endorsed it as a productivity hack. A new study, however, has found that the purported benefits of taking a very small amount of hallucinogenics daily may in fact be more placebo than reality. 

In findings published Tuesday in the scientific journal eLife, researchers with the Imperial College London reported that their study of 191 participants — the largest placebo-controlled trial on psychedelics to date — found that “anecdotal benefits of microdosing can be explained by the placebo effect.” 

Researchers virtually guided study participants — all of whom were already regularly microdosing — through the process of preparing themselves four week’s worth of envelopes containing either a placebo gel capsule or one with a low LSD dose, each envelope bearing a QR code they logged following consumption. 

At the end of the trial period, researchers found that participants reported an improvement in psychological well being across the board, whether they were taking actual acid or placebos. 

“All psychological outcomes improved significantly from baseline to after the four weeks long dose period for the microdose group; however, the placebo group also improved and no significant between-groups differences were observed,” the scientists wrote. 

The report is full of numerous concessions regarding the the study’s weaknesses, including that it had a small participant pool and was performed by citizens, who were not in a clinical setting. 

Still, the citizen-science approach was vital as “restrictive drug policies make placebo-controlled studies on psychedelics difficult and expensive, in particular for microdosing, which involves taking psychedelics over a longer time period.” Unaffiliated scientists agree that the findings should be respected.

“This suggests that the perceived beneficial effects of microdosing psychedelics in this group are more likely to be a result of positive expectation than the capacity of the drug to induce a beneficial effect,” scientist James Rucker told the Guardian of the findings.  

Continue Reading

Living

10 percent of American families at risk of foreclosure, eviction during pandemic

Published

on

By

10 percent of American families at risk of foreclosure, eviction during pandemic

Millions of Americans are facing a housing crisis.

More than 11 million families are behind on rent and mortgage payments due to financial hardships stemming from the pandemic, a new report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau revealed. Evictions and foreclosures are looming, the CFPB urged in its report, putting 10% of American families at risk for losing housing.

The CFPB analyzed the housing market during the COVID-19 crisis and found nearly 2.1 million families are at least three months behind on mortgage payments while 8.8 million Americans are late on paying rent.

What’s more, homeowners are slated to owe nearly $90 billion in missed payments collectively – a historic record since the Great Recession, the last time this staggering number of families were behind on mortgage payments, according to the report. 

“We have very little time to prevent millions of families from losing their homes to eviction and foreclosure,” CFPB Acting Director Dave Uejio said of the findings.

“We are working hard to help homeowners and renters as the U.S. begins to turn a painful crisis, caused by the pandemic, into a robust recovery. We know small landlords are struggling, too, with many dipping into savings or using credit cards to make it through the pandemic. We want everyone — homeowners and renters, landlords, and mortgage servicers — to have the tools they need now to avoid unnecessary evictions and foreclosures,” he added. 

The report also highlighted families who were most at risk of losing their housing, noting that Black and Hispanic families are more than twice as likely to report being late on housing payments compared to their white counterparts. The report noted that 9% of renters said in the report they were more likely to be evicted, with Black and Hispanic households reporting being more likely to be at risk.

Continue Reading

Trending