Chicago teachers support remote learning; classes canceled

Midwest

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CHICAGO (WGN-TV) — The Chicago Teachers Union voted in favor of remote learning late Tuesday night in a move that Chicago Public School leaders said would prompt the cancellation of class Wednesday.

According to an announcement from the union, 73% of members supported the move. The decision comes following pleas from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, CPS CEO Pedro Martinez and Commissioner of Chicago Department of Public Health Dr. Allison Arwady that emphasized the safety of city public schools.

Late Tuesday night, CPS released a statement:

Tonight the Chicago Teachers Union voted to stop reporting to work and given that unfortunate decision, Chicago Public Schools must cancel classes tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022.  Despite six months of active, good-faith discussions with the CTU, despite the fact that more than 90 percent of our staff is vaccinated, despite proven and implemented COVID-19 safety measures, and despite little evidence of in-school transmission, our teachers are not willing to report to work. We are deeply concerned about this decision but even more concerned about its impact on the health, safety, and well-being of our students and families. 

As the city’s teachers union and school leaders faced off over remote learning, NewsNation affiliate WGN News learned that prior to the final vote, 88% of the Chicago Teacher’s Union’s House of Delegates voted ‘yes’ in approval of a resolution for CPS students to learn remotely for a couple of weeks, beginning Wednesday.

A vote by the union’s 25,000 members via electronic ballot followed, asking if they prefer working in person or remotely starting Wednesday.

“We are in a surge. One of biggest surges we’ve seen,” CTU VP Stacy Davis Gates said early Tuesday.

CTU was demanding increased testing and better masks distributed at schools and they want to halt in-person learning temporarily so that more safety protocols can be put in place.

“This new variant is also affecting the vaccinated and the boosted,” Davis-Gates said.

Martinez said he was committed to coming to an agreement with the CTU, which wanted to move to remote learning. Upon the union’s votes to approve remote learning, Martinez said while classes will be canceled, schools will remain open.

“If they take an action to do a walkout, I have to cancel classes tomorrow,” he said. “I’m sorry about that. You will have a plan tomorrow to see how we move forward.”

CPS sent roughly 150,000 COVID-19 tests to hundreds of schools in neighborhoods hit hard by the pandemic. Students were asked to take the tests and return them. But thousands were deemed invalid.

Some samples were delayed in transition and could not be processed before classes resumed.

The CTU’s House of Delegates will convene Tuesday and all of the union’s 25,000 members will receive an electronic ballot asking if they prefer working in person or remotely starting Wednesday.

Arwady said Tuesday that COVID is acting like the flu in children and emphasized the importance of getting vaccinated.

Officials said transmission in schools is typically lower than community-wide transmission.

Some Chicago aldermen have reached out to CPS to urge them to negotiate with CTU over safety. But the two sides have been talking for months without a new agreement.

Before Tuesday night’s decision, Lightfoot reiterated her frustration with CTU’s impending decision to move to remote learning.

“We saw a three-fold increase in the number of failure rates among elementary school children not only that we heard from parents how disruptive that remote learning was to their lifestyles,” Lightfoot said.

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