Chicago Board of Education hold meeting as CPS, CTU clash over return to classrooms

Chicago News
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CHICAGO — The Chicago Board of Education is moving ahead with plans to resume in-school classes next month, while the Chicago Teachers Union remains adamantly opposed.

Wednesday’s board of education meeting is taking up the contentious matter of COVID-19 safety, with CTU’s working to stop the plan to partially bring back students in January.

“We don’t know what our HVAC performance ratings are. We don’t know what the air purifier ratings are.”

Air-Quality experts participated in CTU’s Zoom session, the union expressing deep concern about air circulation and filtration in the buildings as the school board draws closer to a gradual phase-in of students.

“This is the most difficult time. Transmission is highest. It’s dark and cold. People are indoors and the holidays are coming, so there’s going to be a lot of transmission,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey.

The union pointed to recent surveys showing two-thirds of Chicago Public Schools parents refusing to send their kids back. The union is arguing that it’s much safer to offer a beefed-up remote learning plan until the vaccine can do its work to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection.

Chicago Teacher’s Union has recommended a plan to improve remote learning for students, which includes:

  • Reduce live screen time
  • Provide more materials and resources for use at home
  • More built-in time for educators to collaborate with parents and caregivers

Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson pushed back on CTU during Wednesday’s meeting, saying it’s parents who are driving the return to the classroom.

“We are serving a large swath of our families who believe this is the best choice for their students, and we believe we have a moral obligation to do so,” Jackson said.

CPS says studies and data show classrooms can safely reopen with proper mitigation strategies, but CTU is taking legal action, requesting an injunction from the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.

A hearing is set for Thursday.

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