CHICAGO — In-person classes for Chicago Public Schools students have been called off for the rest of the week as district leaders and Chicago Teachers Union representatives continue hammering out a deal to reopen schools.
CPS students will continue to learn virtually Thursday and will have a normally scheduled day off Friday. District officials made the announcement 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson had threatened to virtually lock out teachers who didn’t report to schools Monday, as officials are trying to reopen school buildings for more than 60,000 kindergarten through eighth grade students whose parents have opted in to in-person learning. CTU planned to vote on a strike if the lockout happened.
But after days of escalating rhetoric between the two sides, Lightfoot and Jackson agreed Monday not to bar teachers from working virtually, said they were committed to working through disagreements and delayed any further decision about in-person learning until Wednesday. Preschoolers and special needs students who’d already returned to classrooms have been doing virtual learning throughout the week, alongside older students who had been scheduled to return Monday.
The extended talks now means students and teachers will not return to classrooms until Monday at the earliest.
“We are disappointed to report that at this time, no deal has been reached between CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union leadership,” district leaders said in a message to families. “We will extend the cooling off period for the final time through the end of the day on Thursday to allow for further negotiations tonight.”
Lightfoot and Jackson wanted to have teachers for kindergarten through eighth grade return to schools last week so students who opted in for in-person learning could come back Monday. District and city leaders have said reopening schools is safe.
But the teachers union has demanded more safety protocols, saying reopening schools now, when the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing and vaccinations aren’t widespread among teachers, poses a risk to students, teachers and school communities.
As talks continued Wednesday, sticking points between the two sides continue to be work-from-home accommodations for staff who are high risk or live with someone who is, metrics for when schools need to close to stop coronavirus spread, and improving resources for remote learning, which the majority of CPS students have chosen.
“CPS continues to reject using CDC health metrics, refuses to allow educators with medically vulnerable household members to continue to teach remotely — even though most of the District’s Black and Latinx students will remain remote — and refuses to make improvements in remote learning, despite months of pleas from parents, students and educators,” CTU leaders said in a news release.
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