Chicago Public Schools released a statement Saturday afternoon in response to the teachers union’s latest proposal for updated COVID protocols in and around the classroom.
“CTU leadership, you’re not listening. The best, safest place for kids to be is in school. Students need to be back in person as soon as possible. That’s what parents want. That’s what the science supports. We will not relent,” CPS said in a statement.
In a release, the Chicago Teachers Union released its latest proposal, which would have CPS teachers in buildings to hand out digital devices, sign students up for COVID-19 testing and begin remote learning next Wednesday through Friday.
CTU proposed that in-person learning could resume Jan. 18, unless Chicago and Illinois health officials determine gathering is unsafe amid the COVID surge.
Should 30% or more of elementary school students and more than 25% of high school students contract COVID, CTU said classes should move to a virtual learning environment.
In a statement this week, CPS said it’s “dedicated to working day and night so we can get our students back to school next week, hopefully on Monday,” adding it will provide parents a “status update” over the weekend.
Classes will be canceled for a fourth straight day Monday as the district and union continued to dispute whether remote learning should resume amid the latest surge in COVID cases caused by the omicron variant.
Negotiations are set to continue over the weekend after teachers voted to return to remote learning earlier this week. The move, criticized as an “illegal work stoppage” by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, led officials to cancel classes altogether for the last three days.
On Friday, a group of parents represented by the Liberty Justice Center filed a lawsuit against the CTU, calling this week’s school closures an “illegal strike” and demanded teachers return to school for in-person instruction.
“…CTU cannot unilaterally decide what actions should be taken to keep public schools safe, completely silencing parents’ input about what is best for the health, safety, and well-being of their children,” Jeffrey Schwab, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center, stated, in part.
CPS, meanwhile, filed a labor complaint, charging that the CTU illegally directed its members not to report to work as directed, but to work remotely until Jan. 18 or when CPS meets certain health metrics.
The union says that not enough is being done to keep teachers and students safe amid a surge in COVID cases, and is calling for additional testing and other protocols to be put into place before educators will return to the classroom.
CPS has pushed back against criticisms from the union, saying that they have spent millions of dollars on safety, and that a full return to remote learning is unnecessary despite the rapid rise in COVID cases.
As Bloomberg News reported, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has asked the Biden administration for COVID-19 tests to help resolve the ongoing dispute.
Pritzker didn’t specify how many tests he requested but explained he connected the district to officials from the White House.
“Parents are suffering, children are suffering when they can’t get back in school and I understand teachers need to be safe in school as kids are,” he said. “The parties need to come together and find common middle ground and I have not yet seen that but I am hopeful.”