CHICAGO - Chicago Public Schools has released new details on its plan to re-open, but does it put teachers at-risk of contracting COVID-19?
"Teachers clearly want to be back in schools, but what we're hearing from our members is: they want it to be safe," said Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey. "So I think we've got more work to do."
Sharkey says the CPS plan to bring teachers and students back starting January 4th is forcing its members to choose between their livelihoods and staying safe.
"People who work in the schools need their jobs in order to pay bills to their family and what not; it wasn't a free choice, it was sort of a ‘forced’ choice," Sharkey said.
January 4th marks the return of Pre-K and cluster program teachers, followed by those students a week later. January 25th is when K-8 teachers return, with K-8 students moving to a hybrid model the following week.
CPS said in a statement that "health and safety are the district's highest priorities and accommodations for remote work have been granted to all teachers and staff who have documented medical conditions...and where possible [to] staff who live with someone with a high-risk medical condition or face childcare challenges."
The total number of teachers expected to physically be back in class is just over 5,800.
"There's going to be a lot more resources put toward the small number of students that are going to be in-school rather than on the majority that are going to be out of school," Sharkey said.
CPS says those teachers who were denied accommodations to stay remote would have access to free weekly COVID tests.