No in-person school Monday in Chicago as union and district argue over safety and vaccines
CHICAGO - On Sunday evening, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said that Chicago Public Schools have not yet reached an agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union on whether and how to open schools this week. That means that students will not be back in classrooms on Monday.
"We are continuing to bargain," said CTU President Jesse Sharkey on Sunday night. "I think if they get creative and are willing to make compromises... but we are not seeing the compromises."
The union argued that the city needs to be more proactive about getting teachers vaccinated against COVID-19, and that at this point, the district is only getting about a thousand shots a week. One member said on Sunday night that teachers are running around the city hunting for vaccinations like a "bizarre Hunger Games."
Both sides said on Sunday that they were willing to negotiate late into the night to get an agreement.
Lightfoot said that it is clear that students will not be returning to classrooms on Monday, February 1. She said though that all teachers are expected to show up for in-person work on Monday though. Those who do not, and who do not have excuse notes, will be disciplined. She said that as of Sunday afternoon, pre-K through 8th grade students should plan to return to school on Tuesday.
Sharkey said that a couple thousand union members have spouses or other loved ones in their households at extreme risk if they were to get sick with COVID, and he thinks it's a "reasonable ask" to have accomodations for those members.
CPS CEO Janice Jackson said that teachers who refuse to show up for in-person instruction will be kicked out of the district's remote learning computer system, Google Suites.
Lightfoot said that she had had a cordial, productive phone call with CTU President Jesse Sharkey on Sunday.
Lightfoot noted that pre-K and cluster teachers had been back in classrooms for three weeks without any significant problems.
"Remote learning doesn't work for everyone, especially for our students most in need," said Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Sunday evening. "Our schools are safe."
About 10,000 teachers and staff were supposed to report to their school buildings on February 1 to teach about 62,000 students.
The mayor said that CPS and CTU have held more than 70 meetings since the pandemic began. She said the city has spent more than $100 million on COVID-related improvements.
"We have said all along that our goal is not no re-opening. Our goal is a safe re-opening," Sharkey said on Saturday morning.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot's office released a statement Saturday night saying a tentative agreement is in place on four outstanding issues. They include health and safety protocols, ventilation, contact tracing and the implementation of health and safety committees.