Chicago teachers union, district fail to reach deal as K-8 students lose first week of in-person learning

on Feb4
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K-8 students in Chicago’s Public Schools have now lost what was supposed to be the first week back for in-person learning, as the district and its teachers union remain locked in a dispute over a safe reopening plan during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) — for the sixth time in a little over a week — has instructed parents to keep their children home for remote learning Thursday. Friday, on the district’s calendar, is a “school improvement day” for teachers and staff that students had already been given off. 

“We are disappointed to report that at this time, no deal has been reached between CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union leadership,” the district wrote on its Facebook page late Wednesday night, adding that it is extending a “cooling off period for the final time through the end of the day on Thursday to allow for further negotiations.” 

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Chicago Public Schools initially planned for its K-8 students to return for two days a week of in-person learning starting Monday, Feb. 1, but has not been able to welcome them back yet because of the ongoing dispute. The Chicago Teachers Union, for the time being, has been asking its members to continue teaching remotely.

The Union, in its own update Wednesday, said that “CPS continues to reject using CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] health metrics, refuses to allow educators with medically vulnerable household members to continue to teach remotely — even though most of the District’s Black and Latinx students will remain remote — and refuses to make improvements in remote learning, despite months of pleas from parents, students and educators.” 

One of the key issues of contention between both sides is the union’s push for its teachers to be vaccinated before returning to classrooms – something that has not prevented other large school districts in the U.S. from bringing students back in-person. 

As it stands’ the district is offering 1,500 doses per week to its staff, prioritizing more vulnerable employees who have requested to continue working from home, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.  

But the union is asking CPS to provide at least 1,500 doses to its members alone each week and ramp up that allotment as the city receives more supply, the newspaper adds, citing a CTU document. 

A CPS source told the Chicago Sun-Times that a request like that would reduce the available vaccine supply for others, including members of unions that represent school staff such as security guards and cafeteria workers.  

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The newspaper also is reporting that the district wants staff to return to its facilities after only receiving one shot of the vaccine, not two – something the union has not gotten on board with. The CDC is currently advising the medical community to wait 21 days before giving the public their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and 28 days for the Moderna one. 

Teachers first became eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine in Illinois last Monday.





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