Unionized Chicago teachers are resuming in-person instruction late this week after a 5 day standoff between the union and the school district over the district’s COVID-19 policies resulted in teachers being locked out of their school’s online systems.
After a 2 day return from the district’s winter break, the Chicago Teachers Union voted last Tuesday to switch back to remote learning amid a soaring number of Omicron cases in their classrooms, and as a number of other school districts nationwide struggled to strike a balance between teacher safety and in-person instruction.
The district, uninterested in seeing remote learning continue, locked union members out of the school’s online network. The subsequent deadlock canceled classes for the next 5 days, as the district refused to budge on safety improvements.
The teacher’s union specifically called for an expanded testing schedule for students and their families, requiring random testing for members of the school district unless they opted out of the system. Additionally, the teacher’s sought case thresholds for switching district-wide to remote instruction, which had been a policy of the district until the beginning of the new school year.
A tentative agreement between the Chicago Public school district and the union was reached over the weekend. Under the agreement, testing would be expanded, but the opt-out system would not be included. The agreement also did not address district wide closures, but defined metrics for individual schools to close.
On Wednesday, the teacher’s union voted to approve the tentative agreement by a slim majority, with 56% voting in favor. Returns to classrooms took place as early as the same day.
“This vote is a clear show of dissatisfaction with the boss,” Union President Jesse Sharkey said in a statement, referring to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “This agreement covers only a portion of the safety guarantees that every one of our school communities deserve … Our members’ vote today represents a union’s, and a city’s, frustration with a mayor that has simmered since the beginning of this pandemic.”
Reported by Sean Hagerup
Image Courtesy of Peoples World on Flickr