Chicago Public Schools

Chicago Public Schools Delays Teachers' Return Date After Union Vote

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Chicago Public Schools on Sunday announced that the district would push back the date teachers are expected to return to schools after the Chicago Teachers Union voted to not return to classrooms until after vaccinations.

CPS said in a letter sent to families and posted on social media that the return date for kindergarten through eighth grade teachers, originally scheduled for Monday, would be pushed back to Wednesday.

Conversations with the union "remain ongoing, and additional time is needed to reach a resolution," CPS' letter reads, noting that the extra time before teachers' return was needed "to resolve our discussions without risking disruption to student learning."

Thousands of elementary and middle school staff and teachers were expected to return to schools Monday, with an estimated 71,000 students scheduled to join them on Feb. 1. That date for students to return has not moved as of Monday.

"We must provide families, through no fault of their own, have been unable to make remote learning work for their children," CPS said in the letter. "We've seen grades, attendance and enrollment drop significantly for many of our students in recent months, and the impact has been felt most by our Black and Latinx students."

CTU voted to authorize all rank-and-file educators to continue remote learning on Monday, a statement from the union said. CTU said 86% of its members participated in the vote, with 71% voting to continue remote learning.

After the union's House of Delegates voted last week to authorize all members to conduct remote work only, CPS said that remaining out of schools would be a "decision to strike" and in violation of their collective bargaining agreement.

The union disagrees with that assertion, saying that its vote announced Sunday was based on "unsafe" working conditions and that it isn't tantamount to a work stoppage, since teachers would still be working remotely.

A limited number of students in pre-K and special needs classes returned to the classroom in recent weeks as both the union and district remain embroiled in the debate over resuming in-person instruction.

CPS officials on Friday announced a plan to vaccinate staff members in the next phase of the city's vaccination plan, as the district prepares to bring thousands of teachers and students back into classrooms.

CPS expects to begin receiving vaccines in mid-February, the district said, and will begin to distribute doses to employees at that time through school-based sites. The district noted that staff who are eligible to get vaccinated in Phase 1B, which began Monday, can set up their own appointments through their health care provider or pharmacy.

CPS also said it has launched partnerships with health care organizations to vaccinate approximately 1,500 staff members in health care roles, who have been eligible to receive the vaccine under the current Phase 1A, over the next two weeks.

The district noted that it has created a "prioritization system" for the order in which staff will be able to get vaccinated. That strategy was developed "based on the level of exposure to others and ability to reliably maintain mitigation measures, as well as the amount of time the specific role has been serving in-person during the closure," CPS said. Elementary school teachers are included in Group 2 of the district's plan.

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