coronavirus illinois

Chicago Public Schools Negotiations Continue With K-8 Students Scheduled to Return Monday

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Negotiations between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union over in-person learning continued Friday, just days before kindergarten through eighth grade students are scheduled to return to classrooms.

CPS asked students who have already returned to classrooms to stay home again on Friday for the third day in a row as the stalemate continues.

CPS asked parents of both pre-K students and students in cluster programs to keep their children home Wednesday through Friday as a result of the CTU's vote to switch back to all remote learning during negotiations.

"CTU leadership continues to direct staff to remain home. Therefore, we must ask parents to continue keeping your children home as we are unable to guarantee sufficient staffing to safely cover in-person learning," the district said in a tweet. "Remote learning will continue tomorrow."

The teachers union’s vote to switch back to all-remote learning took effect Wednesday, the same day that teachers of students in kindergarten through eighth grade were supposed to report to schools to begin preparations for the return of their students on Feb. 1.

That Wednesday start date was a delay from the original start date for teachers of Monday, which was pushed back after the union's members voted to not return to classrooms until after vaccinations.

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, 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.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS leader Dr. Janice Jackson have both said that it is safe for teachers and students to return to classrooms with safety protocols in place and the promise of COVID-19 vaccinations on the horizon.

The union has pushed back on those assertions, saying that there have been enough coronavirus cases reported in the district since pre-K and cluster students returned to classrooms that they are justified in seeking a return to remote learning until educators can be vaccinated against the virus.

The CTU called for a meditator to step into negotiations on Tuesday, a call that was endorsed by Lightfoot and Jackson during a Tuesday press conference.

Thousands of elementary and middle school staff and teachers were expected to return to schools this week, with an estimated 71,000 students scheduled to join them on Monday.

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