After Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union reached a tentative agreement on a return to in-person learning in the city, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson are praising the hard work of negotiators and the dedication of leaders on both sides of the negotiations.
“Through a lot of hard negotiations on both sides, I feel very comfortable with the plan we’ve tentatively agreed to,” Lightfoot said in an exclusive interview with NBC 5’s Mary Ann Ahern.
Both Lightfoot and Jackson said they’re confident the tentative agreement will earn the approval of CTU, allowing students to return to in-person learning in the coming weeks. Though only 20% of students have signed up to return to classrooms, Jackson said that things are proceeding according to plan when it comes to the phased, gradual reopening.
“It is going to be a gradual process,” Jackson said. “I’ve said that from the beginning. I know that from researching what other school districts have gone through.”
The phased-in plan will mean teachers and staff will have more time to be vaccinated, as the new agreement calls for 1,500 staffers and teachers to receive doses of the COVID-19 vaccine each week. Those individuals will still be eligible for Phase 1B of the state’s vaccination plan, meaning that the number of individuals being vaccinated could be even higher.
As for students, they will re-enter schools in three separate categories. Pre-K and cluster learning students and teachers will return to classrooms on Feb. 11. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade will return on March 1, and students in sixth through eighth grades will return on March 8.
High school students will remain in remote learning for the foreseeable future, though Jackson said that the plan is to get them back in classrooms as soon as they can.
“I want to see high school students back in classes as soon as possible,” she said.
As teachers deliberate the plan, and as students prepare to return to classrooms, Lightfoot reflected on yet another negotiation with CTU officials, praising union President Jesse Sharkey for his passionate defense of the wishes of the union’s membership during marathon discussions late Saturday.
“Without those conversations between President Sharkey and myself, I don’t think we would have gotten to a tentative agreement,” she said. “He has a very tough job on his side, and I’m grateful for his leadership.”
The union is expected to meet Sunday to discuss the proposal, with a House of Delegates vote possible as soon as Monday evening.