CPS: Teachers who don’t return to classroom Monday are on illegal strike

Coronavirus

CHICAGO — The Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools remain at odds over the district’s back-to-school plan.

Starting Monday, nearly 10,000 CPS teachers are to report to their school. The following Monday, nearly 70,000 students are expected to return.

CTU continues to fight for the district’s reopening plan, saying it’s putting teachers and students at risk for COVID-19. The union wants to continue remote learning.

Union members have until Saturday to vote on a measure refusing to go back.

“We feel confident that we can safely reopen schools next week as planned. Our goal is to reach an agreement by the end of this weekend,” said CPS CEO Janice Jackson during a press conference Friday.

CPS says it has spent millions updating schools and taking all precautions to keep kids and teachers as safe as possible. The district also says its plan has the blessing of the Chicago Department of Public Health. Though a majority of aldermen have questioned CPS’ decision.

Cases of coronavirus have been reported since pre-kindergarten and special education students returned to the classroom two weeks ago, but no outbreaks.

The district says fewer than 100 teachers refused to report to school during the first wave. CPS shut down their Google classrooms and is not paying those teachers.

If teachers do not show up Monday for the second wave, CPS says it will consider it an illegal strike.

“I want to be clear, if teachers refuse to come to work on Monday, that is a strike — that is not a lock out,” Jackson said.

The union contends it’s not illegal because the teachers are willing to work remotely.

Meanwhile, Chicago Public Schools announced Friday a plan to vaccinate thousands of eligible staff and educators under phase 1b of the city’s vaccination plan, expected to begin in mid-February.

CTU released the following statement in response to the district’s announcement:

“Our commitment remains the same: to protect lives as we work to land an enforceable agreement to safely return to our school buildings. Chicago public school educators will continue to teach their students safely, and remotely, on Monday, as they have been for months. Only Mayor Lightfoot and her team at CPS can trigger a work stoppage. Educators choose safety.

“Teachers and staff have reported 60 positive cases of COVID-19 since additional students and staff returned to buildings on Jan. 4, and remain resolved to teach remotely and safely. We urge CPS and the mayor to move swiftly to make vaccinations available to all educators and staff, and also to families in our school communities that continue to bear the brunt of sickness and death from COVID-19.

“We also continue to call for a phased-in reopening that supports the educational needs of the vast majority of our students who continue to learn remotely, rather than in unsafe buildings.”

Chicago Teachers Union

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