Chicago eyes April return to class for high school students

Public high school students in Chicago could return to class for limited in-person instruction starting next month under the outline of plan district leaders unveiled Tuesday as negotiations with the teachers union over COVID-19 precautions continued.

It would be the first time high school students in the nation’s third-largest school district have the option to be back in classrooms since going fully remote a year ago amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, the Chicago Teachers Union, which fought the district’s safety plans for younger students and nearly went on strike, said no deal had been reached.

Chicago Public Schools started bringing younger students back last month in phases, offering students in grades K-8 limited in-person instruction with online learning. The union, which said the district’s initial COVID-19 safety plans fell short, eventually agreed to a plan that included teacher vaccinations.

School leaders said they hoped to offer at least two days a week of in-person classes for high school students starting April 19, which is the first day of the fourth quarter.

"We will continue meeting regularly with CTU representatives as we strive to reach a consensus that provides the smoothest possible transition for our families and staff," CPS leaders said in an email to families. "Negotiations are ongoing with CTU and we will continue to provide updates to families as discussions proceed."

Union leaders accused the district of "distorting" the status of negotiations, and called for more information from the district, including on teacher vaccinations.

"We have no agreement on returning to in-person learning in high schools on any date, nor will there be an agreement until we know our school buildings can reopen safely," the union said in a statement.