Chicago high school teachers are working remotely Wednesday in protest as they continue negotiating a safe reopening agreement with Chicago Public Schools.
Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey said “adequate progress” hasn’t been made at the bargaining table with CPS after union delegates voted over the weekend to approve Wednesday’s remote-only work action.
“Hopefully the (Chicago Board of Education) responds this morning, we can pull our membership in and get a fair settlement,” Sharkey said during a press conference Wednesday morning. “But if there’s no response forthcoming and if the board sticks to unreasonable positions, then we’ll have to continue to go down this path.”
High school students who’ve opted for in-person learning are scheduled to return next Monday. That will mark their first day back in school since the pandemic forced districtwide closures last spring. Teachers and staff were due back this week.
Sharkey said bargaining continued late into the evening Tuesday and has been “fairly productive,” pointing to a new proposal from the district he said was “quite responsive” to some of the union’s concerns.
Outstanding issues include student schedules and building capacity, as well as remote working accommodations for educators. The union is also pushing for vaccine access for high school students and their families.
While the two sides previously reached a deal to reopen elementary schools, high schools present an additional challenge with complex schedules that don't allow for students to be kept in self-contained pods to prevent COVID-19 spread.
CPS this week said it is “firmly committed” to resuming in-person learning in high schools next week, adding that the district has “general alignment” with the CTU on multiple issues. Those include safety protocols and a pledge to “support vaccinations for students when they are eligible and doses are available.”