As the Omicron surge continues in the U.S., so does the debate between in-person and remote learning. The Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration continued a standoff as negotiations roll into week two.
On Sunday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot went on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and stated that “what the Chicago Teachers Union did was an illegal walkout. They abandoned their posts, and they abandoned kids and their families.” For a person who is hopeful of striking a deal, this is a bit of an accusation.
“This walkout by the teachers union, which is illegal, has had cascading negative ripple effects not only on the students in their learning, their social and emotional welfare, but also on the families themselves,” Lightfoot said. “It is making them have tenuous financial status because they have to work, but they also have to take care of their kids. This is an untenable situation and completely, utterly avoidable. So I’m going to be on the side of the parents fighting every single day to get our kids back in school.”
The Chicago Public Schools also issued a statement via a tweet on Sunday:
On Saturday, the Chicago Teachers Union provided their new proposal to start remote learning on Wednesday if school officials agree to a set of additional COVID-19 safety protocols
From Chicago Tribune:
Under the latest offer, CTU members would return to classrooms starting Monday — not for formal classes but to distribute laptops and help students sign up for a weekly, school-based COVID-19 testing program. Remote learning would begin Wednesday with in-person classes slated to return Jan. 18, if case numbers hold right.
Sounds pretty reasonable given that Chicago Public Schools staff and students are not at in-person classes because they have COVID-19 or are quarantining because of possible exposure. However, Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools have rejected any notion of remote learning. CTU President Jesse Sharkey pushed back and “would solve all the outstanding issues, would give parents the clarity that we will begin instruction next week and begin in-person instruction on the 18th.”
“We’re not talking about a long, indefinite period where schools are remote,” Sharkey said, but a temporary measure while “we’re dealing with the high point of a surge.”
He contended that “what the mayor is basically offering instead is no instruction at all. … This impasse is hurting students.”
Other proposals included a greater substitute teacher stipend of $1,000 compared to the regular $420 monthly stipend and metric benchmarks requiring schools to go back to remote learning:
- Schools would close when 20% or more of a school’s CTU staff isolating or quarantining because of COVID-19, or 25% if there are fewer than 100 employees at the school
- Schools would also be shut down for in-person learning for elementary schools if 30% of homerooms have more than 30% of students isolating, and high schools and middle school programs if more than 25% of the student body are isolating.
Hopefully, a deal will be reached soon. While a vast majority agree students benefit more from in-school learning, safety is equally important.