Chicago Public Schools Reaches ‘Tentative’ Reopening Deal With Teachers Union, Students May Return This Week
Chicago mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot speaks to the press outside of the polling place at the Saint Richard Catholic Church in Chicago, Illinois on April 2, 2019. - Chicago residents went to the polls in a runoff election Tuesday to elect the US city's first black female mayor in a historic vote centered on issues of economic equality, race and gun violence. Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle, both African-American women, are competing for the top elected post in the city. (Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski / AFP) (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Monday that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) have reached a “tentative” deal that could have teachers back in classrooms as early as this week — but the two sides have yet to agree on precisely when students might also return to in-person learning.

CPS and CTU have been at odds since early January over a plan to have most Chicago students return to classrooms on February 1st. CPS insisted that it spent hundreds of thousands readying classrooms for mid-pandemic instruction and encouraged teachers to “follow the science,” as noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which claims returning to in-person learning is largely safe. CTU demanded that all teachers be vaccinated before CPS was allowed to reopen and that teachers who had contact with “vulnerable individuals” be allowed to work from home in perpetuity.

At one point, teachers even suggested that schools could remain closed until the pandemic ended — a timeline that could keep virtual learning alive for the next several years.

Monday, though, Lightfoot claimed the two parties had finally broken their impasse.

“At long last, CPS has finally reached a tentative agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union that opens up school doors for our pre-K, cluster, and K through eight students,” Lightfoot announced.

“Under the tentative framework, the first group of students and staff — pre-K and special education cluster programs — would return Feb. 11. When schools briefly opened to those groups in January, fewer than 1 in 5 eligible students attended,” the Chicago Tribune reported. “Subsequent groups would be staggered, with staff returning ahead of students: Kindergarten through fifth-grade staff would go back Feb. 22, followed by their students on March 1. Sixth through eighth-grade staff would go back March 1, followed by their students on March 8.”

The two parties did not agree on a return timeline for high school students.

It appears, from comments CTU officials made following news of the agreement, that the union’s threat of a strike did not produce better results from CPS, leaving them more willing to take a deal.

“It’s not clear to me that if we strike, we automatically get more,” CTU president Jesse Sharkey explained to members. The Tribune notes that, because CTU already has a contract with the school district, any strike — official or unofficial — could have left members without paychecks at a particularly difficult time.

Lightfoot was quick to note, Monday, that it was parents who prompted the deal.

“You have told me directly and you have told us that you feel like, as parents and students, you have been held hostage and your voices have been drowned out,” she said.

It’s not clear whether the deal covers vaccinating teachers. The head of the CDC said, last week, that schools did not need to ensure all teachers were vaccinated in order to return students to classrooms safely. The Biden administration, which is deeply connected to teacher unions, said that the CDC director was speaking in a “personal” capacity when addressing the vaccine issue, but promised, Sunday, that it would release guidance on returning to in-person instruction this week.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Chicago Public Schools Reaches ‘Tentative’ Reopening Deal With Teachers Union, Students May Return This Week