Stalemate between CPS, union continues as mayor says ‘the ball is in the CTU’s court’

Coronavirus

CHICAGO — A stalemate between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union is likely continuing into Friday.

The mayor said the ball is in the Chicago Teachers Union’s court and that they will continue to meet until a deal is reached.

“We are failing those children by not giving them the option to return to school,” she said. “Failing grades, depression. That is why we must get a deal done and get it done now.”

The mayor emphasized the need to reach a deal and said officials have more than they need to accomplish that goal.

“Our children cannot afford to wait any longer,” Lightfoot said.

She said some parents in the school system feel their voices are being drowned out and is asking Chicagoans to be patient.

“At some point we have to return to in-person learning,” CPS CEO Janice Jackson said.

Jackson said the plan is not for CPS to do remote learning forever. The CEO said she has heard from Black and Latinx families who are struggling with remote learning — an issue that has been emphasized as the pandemic goes on.

Chicago Public Schools continued to do full remote learning Thursday as the district and the union continue to negotiate terms for reopening school buildings under the threat of COVID-19.

Students were supposed to return for hybrid in-person classes on Monday, but the CTU continued to raise concerns about the safety of CPS’ reopening plans.

A 48-hour cooling off period was extended through Thursday. Earlier this week, CPS said progress is being made but it’s not enough to get teachers back into the classroom.

CTU is asking for a health metric that shuts down schools during outbreaks, remote accommodations for teachers who live with people with medical conditions and a vaccination plan for teachers who desire to receive the vaccine.

Lightfoot released a statement earlier this week, saying both sides agreed on health and safety protocols, ventilation, contact tracing and health and safety committees.

On Wednesday night, WGN learned that CPS was offering to allocated 1,500 doses of the vaccine per week for employees, but wants them to return to the classroom after the first dose.

The director of the CDC has said research does not back CTU’s claims that the vaccine is needed.

“Increasing data suggests that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopen does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said.

On Thursday, parents whose teachers have been locked out of remote learning since early January held a virtual meeting.

“I’m worried that it’s been over two weeks without a teacher in our classroom, our virtual classroom, and our students were making a lot of progress and now we’re taking steps back,” a parent said. “What this decision is doing is hurting students more than anyone. For me it doesn’t matter that they’re teaching virtually.”

The mayor said she expects teachers back in school as soon as possible, but would not speculate what would happen if a deal is not reached.

There’s a scheduled day off for students Friday, so the earliest that would happen would be Monday.

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