CTU calls on members to refuse to report to school as union, CPS reach impasse over Covid safety

Chicago News
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CHICAGO — The governing body of the Chicago Teachers Union signed off on a call for members to refuse to return to classrooms Wednesday, setting the measure up for a vote later this week as the union and school officials reach an impasse over returning to classrooms amid the pandemic.

According to the CTU, its House of Delegates approved a measure calling for all of its members who work at Chicago Public Schools to refuse to return to teaching in person and continue working from home instead. The measure now goes to a vote by the full membership this weekend.

While the teachers are not proposing a strike, union leaders said such a step is not out of the question.

“Our members are resolved to continue working, teaching their students and doing so safely,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said in a statement. “Only the mayor can force a strike, and if it comes to that, that’s her choice. We choose safety.”

The two sides have been meeting in recent days but have come to an impasse, even as Kindergarten through 8th grade teachers and staff are supposed to return Monday after Pre-K and special ed returned last week.

District officials say air purifiers will be in every classroom along with continual disinfecting, while it maintains an independent state-certified hygienist has signed off on reopening schools, saying conditions warrant a safe return along with temperature checks, masks and social distancing.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson have said time and again the kids are better served by being in school and not learning remotely.

The teachers strongly disagree, arguing they have not had enough say and their opinions just don’t matter to district officials. They say they should work remotely until they receive the vaccine. 

“CPS has failed to notify these teachers they are eligible for the vaccine, let alone schedule appointments for them,” said CTU Attorney Thad Goodchild.

In a statement released Wednesday night, CPS spokesperson Emily Bolton said the district remains “committed to reaching a mutually-acceptable agreement” and they have agreed to safety demands previously made by the union.

“Stripping tens of thousands of students of the opportunity for safe, in-person learning is not an option or a viable solution for families who have been planning to return since December,” Bolton said.

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