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Class Canceled: Chicago Teachers Union Votes In Favor Of Remote-Learning At Odds With City Demanding Educators Appear In Person

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On Tuesday afternoon, the Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) voted to move K-12 education back to virtual learning, in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases.

In response to the union vote, the city’s education department canceled class on Wednesday, without pay for the teachers, and asked for the CTU to come to the table to work out a compromise. Now, the city is working to convince teachers to come back to the classroom so that students can receive a proper education. Signs indicate a strike could be coming, as it’s unlikely a mutual decision will be reached by Thursday morning.

Following the vote Tuesday afternoon, Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) issued a series of tweets aimed toward parents, reassuring them their children would be returned to in-person learning.

“I want to speak directly to the parents who are worried not just about what’s going to happen tomorrow, but the rest of this week,” Lightfoot tweeted. “I want to assure you that I am doing everything in my power to keep our students in school, where they belong, learning.”

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Lightfoot also indicated that she was willing to negotiate a “fair agreement” with the CTU, but added, “what we cannot accept is unilateral action to shut down the entire district, depriving hundreds of thousands of students of the safe, in-person schooling environment they need.”

Noting that the school district was following expert guidance, Lightfoot implored teachers to return to work, saying, “I’m urging teachers. Show up to your schools. Your kids need you.”

According to CNN, CTU President Jesse Sharkey has said teachers want to teach, but the city has not provided resources to protect teachers from COVID-19.

He accused the city of failing “to deliver a whole number of basic demands that we need in the schools, has failed to provide adequate staffing, adequate cleaning in the schools, has failed to provide adequate testing, has failed to address our concerns as people going to the schools.”

“We want to teach, and we want to do what’s right for our students,” Sharkey also said. “And we are prepared to do that remotely starting today.”

Sharkey has maintained that since the virus is “raging” through the city, then it is dangerous for teachers to work. This flies in the face of data, as the Omicron variant — which causes milder disease than the Delta variant, according to experts — has spread across the country. At least 86% of Chicago teachers and staff have received a COVID-19 vaccine.

While Chicago had reportedly hoped to come to an agreement with the CTU by Wednesday evening, the series of events do not seem to indicate that the two parties will come to a resolution.

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Lightfoot sounded committed to keeping schools open Tuesday evening as well, saying, “What I know is that there is no basis in the data, science or common sense for us to shut an entire system down when we can do this surgically and do this at a school level where needed.”

Chicago Health Commissioner Allison Arwady agreed with that assessment, according to U.S. News.

“When I think about a city that is open right now, in what world would we think of closing something essential like in-person education when we have seen the negative effects of that when our bars remain open?” Arwady said. “No public health leaders in the world at this point think that that makes sense.”

Adding to the conflict on Wednesday morning, the CTU announced that they were being “inundated with calls and emails this morning from educators who attempted to log into their platforms to connect with their students and teach remotely, and safely, but are being locked out by Mayor Lightfoot.”

As of now, school is scheduled for in-person learning starting Thursday. It is unclear what happens if negotiations remain at a standstill.

This is a developing story; refresh the page for updates.

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