CHICAGO – The Chicago Teachers Union on Sunday approved a plan that will welcome city high school students back to the classroom.
The union voted 83% in favor of grades 9-12 returning to partial in-person learning beginning Monday. This agreement says Chicago Public Schools, CTU and the Chicago Department of Public Health will meet by Friday about the student and family vaccination program.
WGN spoke with Temple Payne, whose daughter Tristyn is one of the thousands of CPS students heading back to the classroom this week. Monday will be the 7th grader’s first day ever learning in-person at Gwendolyn Brooks Academic Center – a selective enrollment school.
“It’s a little bit like first-day jitters,” Payne said. “She’s never really been in the school buildings so she doesn’t know her way around, she doesn’t know where she’ll be. So all of those new experiences that typically happen in September are happening tomorrow for her.”
Even though most middle school students have had the option to learn in-person for weeks, Tristyn’s classes are taught at the high school.
“And so, they were lumped in with high schoolers,” Payne said.
Sunday’s ratification of an agreement between the union and Chicago Public Schools means high schools will open their doors to students tomorrow for the first time in more than a year. A third of high schoolers, about 26 thousand students, have indicated they will go back – on a hybrid schedule.
The agreement was reached after teachers opposed returning to school buildings. Teachers continued working remotely as negotiations between the union and CPS continued.
The union wanted an option for teachers to stay remote if their students decided on the option. Additionally, the union wanted a vaccination program for students 16 and older and their families. Sunday’s agreement gives the union both , says CTU president Jesse Sharkey, telling members in a statement, the vaccination program is “the first of its kind in the nation.”
“I was a parent who initially was nervous about sending my kids back,” Payne said. “I absolutely wish this would have happened sooner.”
Payne says another child, who is sophomore attending a private school has thrived since returned to the classroom in January. The first day for her 7th grader on Monday is better late than never, she says.
“Both of my students are typically straight-A students,” she said. “Both of them struggled mightily through all of this.”