Chicago Teachers Union cites 'impasse' over schools reopening

The Chicago Teachers Union and the city’s school district are at "an impasse" in talks over COVID-19 safety protocols ahead of school starting at the end of the month, the union’s leader said Wednesday.

CTU President Jesse Sharkey noted remaining disagreements include metrics over when to close schools in case of an outbreak, rules about when students need to quarantine, and physical social distancing rules, which were cut back from 6 feet to 3 feet.


Similar clashes over reopening during the pandemic have extended remote learning for students in the nation’s third-largest school district. But Sharkey said teachers were still planning on returning to buildings when school starts Aug. 30.

"We are beginning without a comprehensive reopening agreement. This is a real problem. So far, the city has not been willing to agree to metrics, which would close schools and keep us safe if this surge continues," Sharkey said at a rally outside a high school on Chicago’s near Southwest Side. "And they’re not willing to make those commitments, and we’re not willing to sign an agreement without those commitments. So we have an impasse."

Chicago Public Schools has planned for students to return to in-person classes five days a week. The district first went remote in March 2020, with students returning in phases last year for limited in-person instruction. This coming academic year, all teachers and staff are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and students, teachers and staff must wear masks, among other safety measures.

School officials said Wednesday that all of the district’s health and safety protocols were in line or beyond what public health experts have recommended.

"It is disappointing that the CTU is rejecting science for their own gain and continues to second guess health experts and express their own unscientific opinions about health related matters," said a statement from Chicago Public Schools spokesman James Gherardi. "The CTU appears to be committed to spreading doubt instead of preparing for the upcoming school year after the past year’s immense disruption to learning."