CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Class in Chicago will be canceled again Thursday for the second day in a row as the city and teachers union argue about COVID-19 safety.
The union voted Tuesday night to refuse in-person instruction and switch to remote learning. Its leaders say the move is due to rising levels of COVID and inadequate safety measures.
“We’ve been failed by the mayor, we’ve been failed by the public health office,” Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey said. “And teachers in the school (as well as) staff decided the only thing we can control is whether we go into the buildings.”
Thousands of schools across the country have had to adjust their return from winter break as the highly transmissible omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to spread. Many have opted to temporarily switch to remote learning or cancel classes altogether.
The Chicago union’s action, approved by 73% of members, called for remote instruction until “COVID cases substantially subside” or union leaders approve an agreement for safety protocols.
But some members who tried to log into teaching systems Wednesday said they were locked out.
The move to cancel classes and activities Thursday affects roughly 350,000 students and came after closed-door negotiations Wednesday failed to produce a deal. The issues include metrics for closing schools.
According to Burbio, a company that has tracked school openings, more than 3,700 K-12 schools will be closed nationwide for in-person learning for at least part of this week, including in major cities such as Detroit and Atlanta.
Chicago Public School officials say they are willing to work with the teachers union, while also defending their readiness for students to return.
“Our schools are safe. There is no evidence that our schools have ever been unsafe this school year,” said Pedro Martinez, the CEO of Chicago Public Schools.
“In what world would we think to close something essential like in-person education when we have seen the negative effects of that?” said Dr. Allison Arwady with the Chicago Health Department. “No public health leaders in the world, at this point, think that that makes sense.”
For now, Chicago Public School buildings will remain open for “essential services,” but not instruction. The district said meals and COVID-19 testing would be available. Extracurricular activities have been canceled.
Both sides are working toward an agreement. It remains unclear when CPS students will return to the classroom.