The Chicago Teachers Union voted to defy the city school district and continue to work remotely on Monday, in a deepening conflict between the nation’s third-largest district and its employees.
The conflict is one of many such disputes between teachers unions and school districts across the U.S., brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. New York officials in particular have struggled to keep the city’s district open for in-person learning.
According to Chicago Public Schools’ coronavirus reopening plan, about 70,000 elementary school students are scheduled to return to in-person learning on February 1 after having remained at home since March 2020. Around 10,000 elementary school teachers and staff were supposed to come in to work on Monday, in order to prepare for the reopening.
However, CTU members voted to remain at home on Monday, because of disagreements with CPS regarding the reopening plan. The vote saw 86 percent of all CTU members cast ballots, with 71 percent of those opting to continue to work from home instead of in person.
Unresolved disputes between the district and teachers include coronavirus vaccine availability for teachers, public health metrics determining when schools should reopen or close, and accommodations for teachers and staff who live with a relative at higher risk for complications from COVID-19.
“CPS did everything possible to divide us by instilling fear through threats of retaliation, but you still chose unity, solidarity and to collectively act as one,” read a post on the CTU website on Sunday.
Complicating matters, many parents appear reluctant to send their children into class. Preschoolers and special-education students returned to in-person learning on January 11, with staff for those students ordered back to class.
According to the district, parents of just 6,470 out of 16,944 preschoolers and special-education students opted to send their children to in-person class. However, only 19 percent of students who initially opted in have actually attended class.
Parents of about 71,000 elementary school students, out of 191,000, have indicated they would send their children back to in-person learning. Black and Latino students appear less likely to return to class.