Chicago’s public high schools were set to reopen Monday for the first time since the nation’s third-largest school district went fully remote amid the coronavirus pandemic over a year ago.
The Chicago Teachers Union announced Sunday that its members overwhelmingly approved a reopening plan that includes helping students 16 and older and their families get COVID-19 vaccines, with priority given to certain ZIP codes hit hard by the pandemic. Also included in the agreement with Chicago Public Schools is more leeway for educators to work remotely, like if they don’t have in-person students that day.
“This agreement secures critical safety standards for returning in-person to high schools, delivers groundbreaking wins for the protection of our students and defends the safety and working conditions of all members in CPS,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said in a statement.
A CPS spokeswoman didn’t have comment Sunday beyond a joint statement issued Thursday by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson after a tentative deal was reached.
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“It is a critical milestone for our families and it’s a tremendous step forward for the academic and social-emotional well-being of our students,” the statement from both leaders said.
Younger students have returned in phases this year after tough battles with the union over teacher vaccinations, reopening metrics and other issues. That union accepted that agreement for students in preK-8 in February after defying district orders to teach in person, city threats to lock them out of teaching systems, and talk of a potential strike.
Roughly 36% percent of the district’s approximately 73,000 high school students had expressed interest in returning to limited days of classroom instruction, but the number could be lower.