Chicago public school classes will be canceled on Wednesday if the city’s teachers’ union votes to switch to distance learning amid an increase in COVID cases.
District CEO Pedro Martinez said in a speech on Tuesday that even if classes are canceled, schools will remain open for families. He noted, however, that no decision will be made until union votes later Tuesday evening.
“I will have to cancel the lessons [Wednesday]”, he said.” It does not mean that schools will be closed. The schools will be open, but I will have to cancel the lessons tomorrow because I cannot … I have to be responsible for knowing who will report to the buildings. And then we’ll have a plan specifically for parents that will come out tomorrow very quickly on the way forward. “
CTU plans to call a meeting of its House of Delegates, as well as a vote with its grassroots members, on whether or not teachers want to work remotely during a COVID wave without CPS permission. .
The union told NBC 5 it was not a withdrawal or a strike, but would only be until the wave subsides, with an end date tentatively scheduled for January 18.
The PSC said it would continue discussions with the union and hope to reach an agreement.
CPS leaders have rejected a return to district-wide e-learning. School and city leaders argue that distance learning has been devastating for the learning and mental health of students in the district of about 350,000 students. They insist that safety protocols, including required masks, regular testing, improved ventilation and vaccines, make schools safe for children.
District leaders said individual classes and schools with outbreaks could temporarily go live like they’ve been doing for months, but the district will continue in person.
“We have to keep our kids in school, which is what we’re going to do in Chicago,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot told CNBC on Monday. She dismissed the concerns as “a slash from the leaders of the teachers’ union”.
But the union criticized the district’s security measures.
In a similar debate last year, the district punished teachers who did not show up for work in person by excluding them from computer systems.
Schools across the country are struggling with the same issues, and a handful of school districts have reverted to online learning. In Illinois, public schools in Peoria have extended winter vacation by one week, and schools in East St. Louis announced two weeks of distance learning after winter vacation.
At least two Chicago-area districts – Niles Township High School District 219 and West Chicago District 33 – have switched to online education, especially due to staff issues caused by COVID infections and employee absences.
Currently, the governor of Illinois has said there are no plans to reinstate online learning statewide. When asked if he thought a switch to distance learning was necessary, Gov. JB Pritzker said on Monday that “the best thing” is for students to be safe at school.
“I always said it was best for our students to have them in class,” he said. “But safe, and that’s why we have provided and offered testing and we have offered and provided more vaccines. And so we hope the school districts across the state will accept us. Many have.”
CTU leaders argued that the current wave is making teachers and students more vulnerable and that the district has already botched safety protocols, including a vacation testing program and data collection. The union’s demands included requiring all students and staff to test negative for COVID-19 before attending classes after the two-week winter break.
“I’m so pissed off that we had to constantly fight for basic necessities, basic mitigation measures,” Union vice president Stacy Davis Gates said on Monday outside an elementary school where teachers planned to work. home.
The district distributed 150,000 home test kits during the break. But after the district extended the deadline for sending them back for treatment, thousands of people were declared disabled due to the time lag. CPS said it will work with the test vendors to resolve the issue.
The back and forth between the union and the district comes amid record COVID-19 infections around the world. In Illinois, a record number of COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized. Pritzker has previously called on hospitals to suspend elective and elective procedures in anticipation of more COVID-19 patients and to strengthen staff at vaccination centers.
Also starting Monday, the city of Chicago and the surrounding Cook County began requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccines in indoor locations, including restaurants, gyms and museums.