The Chicago teachers union on Tuesday voted that it would not enter school for in-person classes, leading the city’s public schools to cancel all classes on Wednesday.
The union said that amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, existing mitigation measures were not sufficient to protect the health and safety of the teachers, a contention that the school district has rejected, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The district’s 340,658 students had returned Monday from their Christmas vacation.
The district had said that if teachers approved what it called an “illegal work stoppage,” it would cancel classes instead of the district returning to remote learning, according to WLS-TV. All other school activities, including sports, were canceled.
Lightfoot in Chicago should tell everyone of those teachers who are out they will not be paid until they come back to work. Period.
— Tamara Smith (@s46311967) January 5, 2022
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said teachers who do not show up will be shunted into no-pay status, the Tribune reported.
“I have to tell you, it feels like ‘Groundhog Day,’ that we are here again,” Lightfoot said, according to the Tribune, referring to a 2019 strike by city teachers and multiple rounds of sparring over an eventual return to in-person classes.
Union leaders are “politicizing the pandemic,” she said.
“There is no basis in the data, the science or common sense for us to shut an entire system down when we can surgically do this at a school level,” Lightfoot said, according to the Tribune.
“If we pause, what do we say to those parents who can’t afford to hire somebody to come in and watch their kids, who can’t ship their kids off to some other place. What do we say to those students who are already struggling?” Lightfoot said.
According to WLS, the Chicago Teachers Union said 73 percent of the members who voted approved staying home and said they would return when the district makes an acceptable offer.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez said the district will “have a plan specifically for parents that will come out [Wednesday] in a very timely fashion about what the path forward is. I am still committed, though, to coming up with an agreement with the CTU,” according to the Tribune.
Schools on Wednesday were offering no instruction but allowed students in school buildings to address concerns of parents that they had no other place for the children, given the short notice of the teachers’ vote.
“We will still continue to provide essential services, and we will have a plan in place whether it’s for nutrition; we still have COVID testing that’s scheduled in the schools,” Martinez said.
I’d like nursing home staff in Chicago to call these teachers to come get their parents and grandparents from the nursing homes because they are too scared to work. https://t.co/Q1mNFOC2gu
— Jo-Anne Sears (@JoAnnePSears) January 5, 2022
In a statement, the union said it understood the “frustration” its decision might cause.
“We believe that our city’s classrooms are where our students should be. Regrettably, the Mayor and her CPS leadership have put the safety and vibrancy of our students and their educators in jeopardy,” the statement said.
“Unfortunately, our union is again being backed into a corner of being the leader in the city that the mayor refuses to be,” CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said, according to WLS.
The union wanted KF94, KN95, or N95 masks given to all staff and students as well as procedures to be put in place to move to remote learning if 20 percent or more of staff is either in isolation or quarantine, or if a school safety committee says the transition to remote learning is necessary, the Tribune reported.
School officials have said there is no health threat to students, and said the school system has been working with the union to address the teachers’ demands.
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