CPS students return to class Wednesday after standoff between city, CTU

Chicago Public Schools students returned to the classroom Wednesday after a week of fighting between the Chicago Teachers Union and school administration.

Students missed five days of instruction while the two sides battled over COVID-19 safety protocols as the city sees a surge in cases.

Beginning Wednesday, 10 percent of students will be randomly selected to test for the virus. Students must opt-in to test. All staff will be tested each week. The two sides also agreed on a positivity threshold, that will dictate when students return to remote learning.

Students would return to remote learning for at least five days if 30 percent or more of its teachers are absent for two consecutive days because they are in quarantine or have the virus.

A school closure would take place if 40 percent of students were in quarantine.


"I am hopeful that this is the end, at least for this school year," said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. "So the agreement that we have proposed takes us through the end of summer school and I am hopeful that we will have a stable, uneventful, rest of the school year."

Chicago Teachers Union members have until Wednesday afternoon to vote electronically on the agreement. If they reject it, they could go back on strike.

Parents dropped off their children at South Loop Elementary School, describing how their families were impacted by the labor issue and COVID concerns.

"I have three children in CPS," Racine Harris said. "As a nurse, I do not have childcare. When the school shut down, I had to hustle and find out who’s going to keep my children. So I had to choose my children over my patients and that meant I could not take care of the people who have active COVID. So it’s a catch-22, what do we do? Yes, I’m very excited that now my son is in a safe place. He’s learning. And now I can go and take care of the people that need me."

Chris Fulton also has three children. He said he understood why teachers tried to move to remote learning.

"I think the best is to let the schools decide. They can monitor their cases and go from there," Fulton said.

Trisha Billings said she was happy to see school resume for her son.

"[I'm] very happy," Billings said. "It’s been a struggle. I work full time, my husband works. Having a child at home is very challenging and we’re very happy to have him back at school."

The CTU leadership and the district agreed to have more resources for COVID testing, contact tracing and masks and to improve efforts to get more students vaccinated.