Chicago’s COVID-19 battle with teachers hangs in second week

by Sofia Tarin

CHICAGO (AP) – A standoff over distance learning and other COVID-19 safety measures between Chicago school leaders and the teachers union resumed Sunday, which has canceled three days of classes and the nation’s third largest Another did it at the beginning of the week. District.

Controversial issues included tests and metrics for closing schools. The Chicago teachers union wants the option to go back to districtwide remote instruction, and most members have refused to teach in person until an agreement is reached, or the latest COVID-19 spike subsides goes. But Chicago leaders have dismissed districtwide distance learning, saying it is harmful and that schools are safe. Instead, Chicago opted to cancel classes two days after the students returned from winter break.

Chicago public schools face the same pandemic issues as other districts nationwide, with greater return to distance learning increasing infections and sidelined staff members. But the state of union-friendly Chicago has escalated into a labor dispute mostly familiar to low-income black and Latino district families, which have seen similar safety protocol battles last year, a 2019 strike, and disruptions during a day . Work stopped in 2016

“What the teachers union did was an illegal walkout. They left their positions and they left the children and their families,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. Working diligently every day.”

His statements were not as dismissive as the day before, when, soon after the union made its latest offer public, he said “CTU leadership, you’re not listening” and vowed not to “restrain”. Both the parties have filed complaints with the State Labor Board.

Union leaders have accused Lightfoot of bullying, saying they agree in-person instruction is better, but the pandemic is forcing tough decisions. Attendance was low before the cancellations to isolate students and teachers from potential exposure to the virus and families who opted to voluntarily keep children home.

“As teachers, we are trying to use all the tools we can to make our community safe and educate children,” union president Jesse Sharkey said in a news conference Saturday with Rev. Jesse Jackson, Anyone who destroys it suggests that union members are showing a lack of concern for the children. “It’s hard to believe that Meyer actually believes that.”

Some progress had been made.

The district said late Saturday it would allow more incentives for substitute teachers, provide KN95 masks for all teachers and students, and Illinois would provide about 350,000 antigen tests. But both sides stayed away on key issues, including COVID-19 metrics, which would lead to individual school closures and compensation. The district said it would not pay teachers who fail to report to schools, even if they have attempted to enter distance learning systems. The union does not want any of its nearly 25,000 members to be disciplined or lose pay.

District leaders have said that some schools, where there appear to be enough staff, may even give instructions on Mondays without compromise; All buildings have been kept open for taking food. However, a handful of principals said they have staff to open and many have already canceled Monday’s classes fearing shortages.

School leaders have cited a $100 million safety plan, which includes air purifiers in each classroom. Also, around 91% of employees are vaccinated and masks are required indoors.

Since the start of the academic year, some individual classes have temporarily switched to distance instruction when the transition occurs. But while rejecting a widespread return to distance learning, city health officials argue that the potential risk to the classroom directs most students into quarantine who do not get COVID-19. The district is piloting a “test to stay” program to cut down on isolation times.

The union argues that the measures fall short, especially given the growth of omicron-fuelled growth that has fueled the return to work and class. It has also criticized the district for not enrolling enough students in a testing program and for having an unreliable database of COVID-19 infections.

Seven district families represented by the conservative Liberty Justice Center in Chicago sued over the closure in Cook County last week, while nearly 5,000 others signed a petition urging a return to individual instruction.

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