by Santino Torres / Staff Reporter
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike has brought the Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) boys’ soccer seasons to an abrupt end, due to Illinois High School Association (IHSA) by-laws and limitations.
The strike began on Oct. 17, when the CTU, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson failed to reach an agreement on a new contract for schools. The CTU has requested additional staffing in the form of nurses, social workers and librarians, among other special accommodations, such as a raise.
In the event a school district’s teachers go on strike, IHSA limitations are as follows: “No team or other entity representing a member school may participate in an interscholastic contest or activity during the time the member school is not in session due to a strike by teachers or other school personnel.”
As a result, members of the Chicago Public League (CPL) conferences are not allowed to participate in the IHSA State tournaments that began on Oct. 18. Most fall sports seasons for public high schools all across the city have now ended, because IHSA refuses to hear an appeal by CPS to overturn the limitation and let the student-athletes of CPL schools play in these tournaments.
However, IHSA allowed the CPL football programs to participate in their respective state tournaments by waiving the eight-game requirement for playoff qualification provided they hold their first practice before Oct. 30. Simeon and Bronzeville would otherwise not been allowed to participate.
Because the strike occurred after Oct. 11, when the IHSA 1A State Tournament began, CPL teams were able to participate in the tournament and U-High managed to qualify for state as they had recently defeated Joliet Catholic Academy for the 1A Stagg Super-Sectional Championship.
“We’re definitely very fortunate,” said Josh Potter, head coach for the U-High boys’ soccer program, “a lot of these kids just played in local clubs. We got this plethora of kids that just kind of came from mismatched areas and I think that’s one of the coolest things, just being able to represent our school and our community.”
However, CPL teams who were eligible for the IHSA 2A and 3A State tournaments were unable to enter, because the strike occurred before the first day of regional quarterfinals on Oct. 18.
That first day saw nine CPL teams in 2A forfeit, with four teams involved in a double forfeit, while Curie and Lincoln Park were the only CPL teams in 3A that forfeited their matches as a result of the strike.
By Oct. 23, a total of 25 CPL 2A teams (including a ranked Eric Solorio Academy) and 11 3A teams forfeited their matches, including five 2A double-forfeits—three of which were Regional semifinal matches—and one 3A Regional semifinal double-forfeit.
“It’s unfortunate and sad that, with the strike, kids don’t have the opportunity to do what they want to do, which is to play a sport for their school and represent their school, especially for the seniors who aren’t going to have that opportunity to be able to go to state,” said U-High assistant coach David Vadeboncoeur. “But that said, it’s nice to have the responsibility to represent the City of Chicago on that platform.”
Alvaro Perez is the head coach for the boys’ soccer program at George Washington High School on the East Side. His team won the 2A St. Laurence Sectional Championship before falling to St. Ignatius in the Super-Sectionals last season. This season, despite being seeded fourth in the 2A Kankakee Sectional, they were unable to participate in their 2A Brooks Regional semifinal match against Evergreen Park, because the strike had already taken effect before that first tournament match.
“We ended the CPS tourney, and we were getting ready for the state tourney, and I’m in a difficult spot where I need to explain to my students and my players, ‘their season had just ended,’” Perez said. “It puts us in a very difficult position.”
His senior midfielder, Rafael de Santiago, serves as one of the captains for Washington. He is second on the team in goals and assists, with eleven and six respectively. After being eliminated by Eric Solorio Academy in the CPS Tournament semifinals, his senior season is now over due to the strike.
“We worked very hard throughout the whole summer to prepare for this tournament,” de Santiago said. “I’m very sad. I feel very upset that we’re not able to participate in that tournament anymore, especially my senior year.”