Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teachers returned to the classroom today and students return on Wednesday. The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) voted to suspend the work stoppage Monday evening. “The Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates has voted tonight to suspend the union’s remote work action while rank-and-file membership votes on the proposed agreement,” announced CTU on Twitter.
CTU President Jesse Sharkey referred to the negotiations as “unpleasant” but praised his teams’ efforts during a CTU press conference Monday evening. “It’s not a perfect agreement, but it’s something we can hold our heads up about,” said Sharkey.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot held a press conference and spoke about her ultimate goal. “Our goal throughout this entire process was to both get our students back to in-person learning as quickly as possible and to prevent work disruptions for the rest of the school year.”
Classes have been canceled since Wednesday, January 5 after teachers voted yes to a return to remote work action. Concerns over safety protocols and school closure metrics during the current Covid-19 surge prompted the vote.
The move angered Lightfoot who responded by locking teachers out of their CPS accounts. CTU was adamant that in-person learning was not safe during the Omicron surge. CTU asserted that their members would remain remote until January 18 or until an agreement is reached on safety protocols and school closure metrics.
CTU members rallied Monday morning outside their schools and followed up with a car caravan to city hall. The CTU House of Delegates met Monday evening to review and vote on the current proposal. The vote was 63% to 37% in favor of suspending the remote action.
Under the agreement, CPS schools will move to remote learning if 40% of students are in quarantine, or 30% of teachers test positive or are in quarantine. Remote learning will take place for 5 days and screening for asymptomatic cases will take place. CPS School staff will be responsible for conducting contact tracing, and students sent to school care rooms will be tested for COVID-19.
Mayor Lightfoot also agreed to provide additional PPE and create more incentives to increase the number of substitute teachers in the district. During Monday’s press conference Lightfoot said the proposed agreement extends to the end of summer school. CTU members will vote to ratify the agreement later this week.
Paula J Shelton is a freelance writer and journalist based in Chicago. Find her on social @beboldshineon.