Chicago students to return to classroom as Lightfoot reaches ‘tentative agreement’ with teachers union

on Feb7
by | Comments Off on Chicago students to return to classroom as Lightfoot reaches ‘tentative agreement’ with teachers union |

Chicago schoolchildren are expected to return to classrooms later this week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Sunday after Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools reached a “tentative agreement.”

“We are here to announce the very good news that our children will be returning to in-person learning this week,” Lightfoot said at a press conference. “These past 11 months have been a whirlwind for our entire city, pushing us to limits countless times. We’ve lost jobs, we’ve lost loved ones… We have all been on a nonstop emotional rollercoaster that we have individually and collectively tried to navigate.”

CHICAGO MAYOR LIGHTFOOT AND CPS WALK AWAY FROM UNION BARGAINING TABLE WITH NO DEAL IN SIGHT

Under the tentative agreement, the start of in-person classes, phased in by grade, has been pushed back from the district’s initial plans. Classes for some students would start later week. 

But the deal still relies on broader union approval, and it remains unclear when or if a vote will be held for its some 25,000 members, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“We do not yet have an agreement with Chicago Public Schools,” Chicago Teachers Union tweeted Sunday, while the press conference was still happening. “The mayor and her team made an offer to our members late last night, which merits further review. We will continue with our democratic process of rank-and-file review throughout the day before any agreement is reached.”

The union and district have been fighting for months over a plan to gradually reopen the roughly 340,000-student district, with talks breaking down in recent days. The major issues included widespread vaccinations for teachers, metrics to gauge school infections and accommodations for teachers who have a person in their household who’s more susceptible to coronavirus.

“This agreement was about making sure everyone in our school communities just aren’t safe, but also that they feel safe,” Lightfoot said.

CHICAGO SCHOOLS, LIGHTFOOT SEND TEACHERS UNION ‘LAST, BEST AND FINAL OFFER’ FOR REOPENING

CPS officials have said opening schools is safe and that remote learning isn’t working for all students, including many Black and Latino students who make up the majority of the district. Union officials had argued that the district’s plan, which included air filters in classrooms and voluntary COVID-19 tests for teachers, didn’t go far enough

Pre-K and special education students briefly returned last month, but then stopped amid an escalating fight with the union, which voted to continue remote teaching and reject the district’s plans. Teachers and students in K-8 were supposed to return Feb. 1. for the first time since going fully remote last March. The district had offered K-8 students two days of in-person instruction. No return date has been set for high school students.

The union had said that if the district locked out teachers, as it has done previously, teachers would picket. Such a move would have cut off virtual learning for all students. The union last went on strike in 2019.

About 77,000 students from pre-K to 8 expressed interest in returning to class in a December survey. While pre-K and some special education students were offered in-person classes five days a week, students in K-8 were offered two days a week of in-person instruction with remote class on other days. Attendance has been lower than expected.

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Roughly 6,500 of the nearly 17,000 eligible preschool and special education students said they’d like to return, but only about 3,200, or 19% of those eligible, attended after the January reopening, CPS said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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