Chicago Public Schools officials and the Chicago Teachers Union continued negotiating over the weekend about teachers and staff returning to schools for in-person learning.
Some 10,000 teachers were supposed to return to schools Monday to prepare for the Feb. 1 return of roughly 70,000 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
The district announced Sunday it would push that return date to Wednesday in hopes of reaching a deal, after CTU members voted to continue remote learning over safety concerns.
On Monday afternoon, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she hopes such a deal is close.
“In the course of this pandemic, there have never been any easy choices,” Lightfoot said. “I think in partnership with the CTU, if we come together in good faith, I have every confidence whatsoever that we will get something done that obviously protects their members, but also gives families the option, if it’s right for them, to be able to send their children back to in-person learning.”
In a letter to CPS families on Sunday, district leadership said it’s important to bring back students who are falling behind with remote learning.
“Students in over 130 private and parochial schools and over 2,000 early learning centers across the city have been safely learning in their classrooms since the fall … We are pursuing this return because local, state and federal health officials have made it clear that schools can operate safely with proper mitigations.”
Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said as Illinois moves into Phase 1B of vaccinations, a category that includes teachers, city leadership should prioritize CPS staff.
“We see in Deerfield and Skokie where the schools district has worked hand in hand with the health department to offer their educators the first crack at it. They see them as essential workers and they want to make sure that when they reopen schools that their workers have a decent amount of protection going back in. That’s not what we see here in Chicago,” Davis Gates said Monday on “Chicago Tonight.” “Our mayor’s in control of the health department as she is also in control of the school system. There should be a greater relationship between the two agencies to ensure a safe return to school buildings.”
Davis Gates said if the CTU and CPS can’t reach a deal, teachers who don’t show up for in-person learning won’t be striking – they’ll be locked out by the district.
“Our teachers have been very clear, our clinicians, our paraprofessionals: every single person in our union says that they want to serve our students,” Davis Gates said.