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Defying CPS, Chicago Teachers Union members won’t return to schools Monday, say they will teach remotely ‘until buildings are safe’

UPDATED: Sun., Jan. 3, 2021

Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO – The Chicago Teachers Union says its members will not return to school buildings on Monday, in defiance of Chicago Public Schools’ reopening plans.

The union said Sunday it is “rejecting CPS’s effort to force thousands more back into unsafe buildings beginning this Monday” and that teachers intend to continue providing their lessons remotely “until buildings are safe” for them and for students.

Pre-kindergarten and some special education teachers are due to return to school building on Monday, with their students to follow on Jan. 11. It would be the first in-person classes in CPS since Gov. J.B. Pritzker closed schools statewide in March when the coronavirus began to circulate.

CPS wants to force pre-K and special education cluster teachers back into buildings on Monday, six days before Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s most recent stay-home order expires – and before health professionals can gauge any additional post-holiday risk of spread.

The union said it plans to hold a “public teach-in” at Brentano Elementary Monday afternoon “about why reopening now without guaranteed safety protocols is dangerous for students, families and school staff.”

CTU, which went on strike in 2019, also said members and supporter “will stage a series of actions and forums during the week to raise awareness about persistent safety issues in schools.”

CPS and city officials have pushed back reopening plans multiple times but have said their phased-in plan, which would have the bulk of kindergarten through eighth graders returning on Feb. 1 for parents who choose that option, is a cautious approach with many health safeguards in place. They also say remote learning has disproportionately hurt Black and Latino students, though the union has countered that communities of color have also been affected the most by the COVID-19 pandemic.

CPS has granted accommodations for many teachers with underlying health conditions but has rejected special exceptions for many teachers with an immediate family member who is at high risk. CPS officials have indicated they expect staff members without special accommodations to show up for work in person.

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