Crossing guards for Chicago Public Schools were finally relieved of their duties Wednesday afternoon after the school district ordered them to report to work in the sub-freezing temperatures, despite the fact that schools were closed.
“They don’t care about us,” crossing guard Rochelle Davenport told WBBM.
Davenport was one of two crossing guard patrolling Cermak and Wentwork around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, as temperatures hit -23.
CPS crossing guards across the city received a text message from the district Wednesday morning reminding them to show up for their morning and afternoon shifts in case children attempted to go to school, KOCO reports.
The message reminded guards to dress in layers, with hats and gloves, and to drink warm beverages to fight the cold, but Davenport contends it “don’t make sense” when schools are closed.
“It’s freezing cold, my face, my toes, everything,” she said. “Even though I’m layered, it don’t matter. This is extreme weather to hurt someone physically. If it don’t kill you, it’ll knock you out.”
At least eight deaths across the Midwest have been attributed to the blistering cold winds that are pushing windchill temperatures to -70. The deaths include an elderly Illinois man found dead after trying to get into his home, a University of Iowa student who froze behind an academic hall, a man killed by a snow plow in Chicago, a young couple hose SUV crashed in northern Indiana, and a Milwaukee man who was found frozen in a garage, Fox News reports.
Governors in Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan have declared emergencies and schools across the region have been closed for most of the week.
Davenport said she reported for work as she was told, but she was simply standing by herself.
“It’s like deserted at 22nd and Wentworth,” she told WBBM Wednesday morning. “You know, ain’t nobody out here.”
“I came just in case I did see children for the morning shift, but now they’re telling me I have to be back out here at 2:15 for the afternoon,” Davenport said. “If you notice, it’s deserted now, and it don’t make sense.”
Officials with Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications told the news site the deep freeze is an “all hands on deck situation” and crossing guards were needed to ensure students got the message to stay home.
The situation prompted the guards’ union SEIU Local 73 Union to weigh in, and by Wednesday afternoon guards were sent home.
“Crossing guards take protecting the children and community of Chicago very seriously,” the union wrote in a prepared statement. “Local 73 members braved the extreme could conditions this morning and there was no reason for the City of Chicago to force them to work in the afternoon.”
Fox News Meteorologist Janice Dean told “FOX and Friends” “air temperatures are well below zero, in the minus 10s to minus 30s for many. Wind chills of minus 20 to minus 70 will continue through early Thursday flirting with all-time record lows ever recorded.”
“You really can’t be outside for longer than minutes because your face will freeze in these types of temperatures,” Dean said.