Negotiations remain ongoing between the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools over bringing teachers back into classrooms, but as things stand now, students will be required to stay home beginning Wednesday unless a deal is reached.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS President Dr. Janice Jackson both expressed hope that a deal could be reached by Feb. 1, the date that students in kindergarten through eighth grade are scheduled to return to in-person learning, but the CTU has remained steadfast in its decision not to have teachers return to classrooms, voting instead to continue teaching remotely.
“Despite the data and science confirming safety, they have determined that pre-K and cluster teachers should not report tomorrow,” Lightfoot said.
The stance of the union involves teachers getting access to COVID-19 vaccinations, and although teachers are part of Phase 1B of the state’s vaccination program, the CTU says that it would prefer a return to in-person learning be done in a phased way, with vaccinations helping to move those teachers back into classrooms.
“If reopening is a priority, then so are vaccinations,” Stacy Davis Gates, VP of the Chicago Teacher’s Union, said.
In defending CPS’ plans for reopening classrooms, Lightfoot pointed to data coming from the pre-K and cluster students who have already returned to classrooms as reason for optimism that moving back to in-person learning could work, and Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, echoed those sentiments.
“With the precautions that CPS has in place, we do not see schools as a significant source of transmission,” she said. “We do not see them driving community spread.”
CDC research released Tuesday also supports a return to in-person learning, with stringent guidelines on masks, social distancing and air purification required to do so.
The CTU also called for potential meditation in the dispute, something that Lightfoot and Jackson both said they would endorse during Tuesday’s press conference.