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CHICAGO — The Chicago Teachers Union has approved a tentative deal to get Chicago Public School students back in the classroom.

More than 25,000 teachers voted on the plan, making the agreement official. Students are now set to begin in person learning starting Thursday morning.

Votes were certified just before 12:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. Among more than 25,000 teachers, over 13,000 voted in favor of the plan, while a little over 6,500 voted against it.

Even with teachers voting in favor of the return to the classroom, CTU President Jesse Sharkey still has problems with the agreement.

In a statement he wrote:

“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.”

That plan will have pre-K and cluster students and staff returning to schools Thursday morning.

Kindergarten through 5th grade staff would return Feb. 22. Those students would come back to class March 1. After that, 6th through 8th grade staff would return to the buildings on March 1 with those students coming back March 8.

For some parents, the agreement is a sigh of relief to get young children back into the classroom.

Ryan Griffin, a grassroots organizer with the Chicago Parents Collective, has been advocating to get his first-grader back into the classroom.

“These are critical years for all children,” Griffin said.

Under the agreement special accommodations will be made for staff who have members of the household who are medically compromised.

Vaccinations will also be offered to staff.

As of now—CTU and CPS have not worked out a plan for high schoolers to return to the classroom.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson issued the following statement:

“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. We look forward to welcoming students as they return to their classrooms in the days ahead. This vote reaffirms the strength and fairness of our plan, which provides families and employees certainty about returning to schools and guarantees the best possible health and safety protocols. Our schools are fully prepared to safely welcome back students beginning tomorrow, and we are eager to provide additional support for the families who need more than remote learning can provide.” 

In a town hall Wednesday night, Lightfoot iterated that giving parents a choice was of “paramount importance”, and wanted to ensure parents had options.

For CPS parent Michael Pond however, in-person learning is still a no-go.

“I’m personally of the opinion that schools should still remain closed,” Pond said.