Chicago Public Schools

CPS Tells Parents to Keep Children Home Wednesday After CTU Vote

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Chicago Public Schools students who have been learning in-person are being asked to stay home Wednesday after the Chicago Teachers Union voted to have teachers switch to remote-only learning this week, according to a press release from the district.

In a letter sent to parents on Tuesday evening, CPS officials say that parents will be asked to keep children at home as a result of the CTU vote, which took place over the weekend.

“For the past three weeks, thousands of CPS students have been safely learning in person, and the union’s action will prevent these students from receiving the classroom support their parents needed and chose,” CPS said in a statement. “While we are greatly concerned for our youngest and highest-need students, who are suddenly without a safe, in-person learning option, we are continuing to make all possible efforts to reach an agreement that addresses the union’s priorities and provides families a much-needed resolution.”

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

The decision would apply to all teachers who were already in classrooms, as well as those who were scheduled to report this week for preparations for in-person learning for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Those students were set to report on Feb. 1 in the original CPS plan.

As the stalemate continues, CTU teachers are being warned that CPS could potentially lock them out beginning Wednesday, and to prepare for a possible work stoppage and strike beginning Thursday.

"We are willing to keep teaching, but CPS has said they will lock us out," CTU President Jesse Sharkey said in a statement. "We are willing to keep negotiating, but CPS has refused to back down from insisting that 80% of educators and support staff person in every elementary school be back in class on Feb. 1 to serve less than 20% of the students. Another 10,000 of our members became eligible for vaccinations on Jan. 25.  We can make schools safe with a phased reopening and enhanced COVID-19 testing for members of school communities."

The union called the district's latest proposal, which has thousands of teachers and students back in classrooms at the start of next month "both unsafe and unacceptable."

"CPS has said they will only mediate if we consent that they can walk anytime they want and have no obligation to work out compromises," Sharkey said in a statement. "We would hope that the leaders of our city could show more commitment to our educators, students and schools than that."

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS President Dr. Janice Jackson addressed the media Tuesday, laying out the details of what they said is their latest proposal to teachers to safely address the COVID pandemic.

"Earlier today we provided union leadership with the comprehensive proposal, which addresses most of the concerns that they have been talking about," Dr. Jackson said. "We have made a commitment to expand surveillance testing and telework accommodations for staff, and to prioritize vaccinations in our hardest hit communities. We believe that our latest proposal to the union can serve as a foundation to a deal."

The district has argued in recent days that a return to classrooms is necessary for some students and families.

"We cannot, and as mayor I cannot, in good conscience, leave these students behind, who are failing," Lightfoot said. "(We cannot) when a safe solution is absolutely possible."

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.

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