There is currently a heated debate going on between Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) over when to return to in-person learning. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot favors teachers returning sooner rather than later as she requested in-person learning to restart this week.
According to CBS News, Lightfoot was joined by Chicago Public Schools CEO Dr. Janice Jackson during a news conference on Sunday. Lightfoot repeatedly reiterated her belief that “schools are safe” and requested that teachers return to in-person learning on Monday. The CTU has been encouraging teachers to stay remote due to safety concerns from the virus and the lack of a deal with CPS resulted in students still attending virtual classes on Monday. K-8 students are expected to return to in-person learning on Tuesday.
Lightfoot has said that all teachers are expected to return by Tuesday unless they have a special exemption. Should teachers refuse to return Lightfoot said “we’re going to have to take action.” Jackson gave some clarification on what that action could look like, telling WGN 9 that “teachers and staff that refuse to report tomorrow will have their access to Google suites cut off at the end of the business day.”
Lightfoot told reporters that the city has spent $100 million to implement health screenings, contact tracing, social distancing measures, and sanitary supplies to help mitigate the spread of the virus in schools. She said that “remote learning is failing too many of our kids” and said that CTU wasn’t showing any urgency in returning to in-person learning.
Jackson went on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday and explained why they’re pushing so hard to reopen schools. “We’ve been closed for almost a year now. And as a school system, we’re starting to see some of the effects of schools being closed,” Jackson told Face the Nation. “Many of our students aren’t logging on. We are seeing African American and Latinx students, in particular, being especially hard hit. And our goal is to really give every parent an option.”
CTU has reached tentative agreements with CPS with regards to health and safety protocols, ventilation, and contact tracing. The teachers union wants more protections, including a vaccination plan for staff. Teachers also want a metric in place that would shut down schools if there is an outbreak and a remote accommodation for teachers who have pre-existing medical conditions.
Considering that we’re in a pandemic that has infected millions and killed hundreds of thousands in this country alone, those don’t really seem like unreasonable requests to return to work. Especially when your job involves working with hundreds of the most unsanitary creatures on earth.
From CBS News:
Jackson said that without an agreement between CPS and CTU, access to the remote-learning programs offered through Google Suite will be cut off starting at the end of business on Monday.
Lightfoot said that the public school system and the union have had 70 formal meetings since June. The mayor also described the model for safe in-person learning follows guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Illinois and Chicago departments of public health, and is supported by health experts from Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as well as local health officials.
“Our schools are safe. Our schools are safe. We know that because we have studied what’s happened in other school systems in our city — 40,000-plus Archdiocese, charter, and other public schools that have had some form of in-person learning since the fall,” Lightfoot said.
It’s unclear if remote learning will still be offered in Chicago schools should the e-learning tools used by teachers be shut down on Tuesday.