Chicago Public Schools (CPS) canceled classes for a second day in response to teachers voting to work remotely. Students and staff returned to the classroom on Monday despite the rising number of Covid-19 cases in Chicago. Chicago is currently averaging 4,998 cases a day as of January 5. The surge in Covid-19 cases has been of great concern to the Chicago Teachers Union and its members.
The CTU House of Delegates met late Monday afternoon and agreed to authorize a vote on the move to remote work. As news of the vote circulated Mayor Lori Lightfoot made a statement saying the vote would result in an “illegal work stoppage” and that classes would be canceled if teachers voted yes.
“What we need to be focused on is working together. What I’d love to see CTU do is not force an illegal work stoppage. What I’d love to see them do is work hand-in-glove with us to get kids and their families vaccinated,” said Lightfoot.
CTU members were sent ballots Monday evening and the vote resulted in 73.3% in favor of a return to remote work starting Tuesday, January 5. Lightfoot immediately responded by canceling classes, locking teachers and staff out of their Google classrooms, and saying that any CTU member who did not report to work would be placed on “no pay status”.
Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey encouraged his members to stay home and work remotely despite being locked out of the accounts. “You have probably realized by now that the mayor’s team at CPS has locked us out, even though they’re prohibited from doing so by the terms of our contract. To be clear we are not on strike, we are on a remote-work action. The mayor would rather deny students access to their teachers, even those who are medically vulnerable and already working and learning virtually than negotiate a sensible agreement that provides adequate Covid-19 testing to keep students, educators, and families safe,” wrote Sharkey in a letter to CTU members.
The CTU believes that a move to remote learning will not be long-lived, but is in the best interest of teachers and students. The move would remain in place until January 18 or when the omicron cases begin to decline, or until “CPS makes an acceptable proposal on a safety agreement” stated CTU’s Executive Board.
Paula J. Shelton is a freelance writer and journalist based n Chicago. Find her on social @beboldshineon.