Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools Reach Agreement for Return to In-Person Learning

Signs in a hallway at King Elementary School encourage social distancing as the school works to maintain a safe environment during the coronavirus pandemic on September 08, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois.
Signs in a hallway at King Elementary School encourage social distancing as the school works to maintain a safe environment during the coronavirus pandemic on September 08, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois.
Photo: Scott Olson (Getty Images)

Following weeks of negotiations between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union, an agreement has been ratified for a return to in-person learning.

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CNN reports that 13,681 members voted yes and 6,585 voted no on the framework for returning to in-person learning. The agreement will see a staggered return to in-person schooling. K-5th grade staff will be the first to return on Feb. 22, followed by students on March 8. On March 1, 6-8th grade staff will return, with students following on March 8.

Staff who are at-risk or live with those who at-risk will begin to receive vaccinations this week. CPS intends to vaccinate 1,500 employees a week at its own vaccination sites. According to NBC Chicago, the agreement will also see metrics established for a return to virtual learning should the pandemic worsen in Chicago.

“This agreement was about making sure everyone in our school communities just aren’t safe, but also that they feel safe,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot told reporters. “And feel that their lived experiences and fears and frustrations have been heard.”

While an agreement was reached, the statement released by CTU President Jesse Sharkey regarding the vote reveals that the union is still feeling some kind of way about the whole situation.

“Let me be clear. This plan is not what any of us deserve. Not us. Not our students. Not their families. The fact that CPS could not delay reopening a few short weeks to ramp up vaccinations and preparations in schools is a disgrace. Yet the mayor and CPS leadership were willing to do even further harm to our school district to maintain that posture. That’s how much they care about real safety for students, their families and the educators and school staff who support them,” the statement read.

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The statement also went on to say that union delegates “overwhelmingly passed” a vote of no confidence for Mayor Lightfoot.

“We know that educators have not been standing in the way of reopening. A pandemic that has taken millions of lives across the world has. In Chicago, the pandemic has collided directly into our students’ lives, into the very Black and Brown neighborhoods that CPS and the City have starved of resources for decades,” the statement added.

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Lightfoot and CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson released a joint statement regarding the vote, saying, “The vast majority of CPS families have been separated from their schools for nearly a year, and the ratification of our agreement ensures families have options to choose in-person learning and make a plan that is best for them.”

So far, CPS has said that 20 percent of students have opted for in-person learning, while the remaining 80 percent will continue virtual learning. Those who choose virtual learning will still be able to opt-in to in-person learning in April before the fourth quarter begins.

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DISCUSSION

So a big part of this is that the evidence that schools aren’t actually risky is becoming increasingly incontrovertible, with districts that reopened having no more teacher infections or community spread than those that didn’t and even fewer child infections (going theory is that kids and parents were getting stir-crazy and causing social spread), so the union has to back down on its conspiracy theories now to avoid a repeat of 1980's HIV hysterics (I seem to remember even hearing that there were similar conspiracy theories about there being infection coverups).