Chicago Public Schools

Watch Live: Lightfoot, Chicago Public Schools to Update on Reopening Plan

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Note: The news conference can be watched live in the video player above beginning at around 9:30 a.m.

Chicago Public Schools officials and Mayor Lori Lightfoot are set to deliver an update on the district's reopening plan Thursday morning as negotiations with the Chicago Teachers continue over the return to classrooms.

Lightfoot and CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson are scheduled to hold a news conference at 9:30 a.m. at City Hall, according to their public schedules. The news conference can be watched live in the video player above.

CPS announced late Wednesday that students would continue with remote learning on Thursday, with no agreement reached with the CTU. Friday was a previously scheduled non-attendance day, giving the two sides a few more days to negotiate.

The district tweeted the decision at around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday night, writing, "We are disappointed to report that at this time, no deal has been reached between CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union leadership. We will extend the cooling off period for the final time through the end of the day on Thursday to allow for further negotiations tonight."

The district had called for a 48-hour "cooling off period on Monday, lasting through Wednesday night, noting that the two sides had made progress in their discussions.

CPS also reversed course on Monday in saying that as negotiations continue, teachers would not be locked out of their virtual classrooms like district officials had initially warned they would if they did not return to schools this week.

CPS and CTU appear to have reached tentative agreements on testing, workplace requirements, personal protective equipment and a safety committee, sources close to the negotiations told NBC 5 on Wednesday.

According to a bargaining document from sources, CPS and the teachers union agreed to provide 1,500 vaccine doses per week to members. The two groups have not yet reached an agreement on health metrics or health accommodations.

Lightfoot and Jackson said Monday night, in calling for the "cooling off period," that the district and the union had reached an agreement on one open issue and "made substantial progress on a framework" they hoped would address the remaining issues.

Students continued remote learning on Tuesday and Wednesday as a result.

Kindergarten through eighth grade students were initially scheduled to return to classrooms Monday, per the district's reopening plan, though that was put on hold after members of the teachers union voted to continue remote learning until educators had been vaccinated against COVID-19.

A limited number of students in pre-K and programs returned to classrooms last month in accordance with the district's plan, though those students were moved back to remote learning after the union's vote.

Thousands of elementary and middle school staff and teachers were expected to return to schools last week, with an estimated 71,000 students scheduled to join them on Monday - though both were postponed amid the standoff.

CPS previously said that a refusal to return to schools would constitute an "illegal strike" and Lightfoot warned over the weekend that the district would be prepared to "take action" if teachers did not report to classrooms.

“All teachers, pre-K through eight and cluster teachers must report,” Lightfoot said in a news conference Sunday. “If you don’t have an approved accommodation, we expect to see you back in class. Those who do not report to work…we will have to take action. Let’s avoid that.”

CPS officials said over the weekend that if teachers did not return to schools on Monday, they would be considered “absent without leave” and would not be authorized to conduct remote learning until they report back to their classrooms.

At a virtual press conference late Sunday, CTU leadership said outstanding issues include a clear vaccination process and a health metric for teachers' coronavirus concerns.

"People's lives... depend on us reaching a maximum amount of safety in the middle of a pandemic," said Stacy Davis Gates, CTU's vice president.

Lightfoot has repeatedly insisted that the CPS plan has been thoroughly vetted by medical experts, including Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, and that it has been borne out in charter and Archdiocese classrooms in the city since the fall, as well as in pre-K and cluster learning classrooms that returned last month.

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.

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