FILE PHOTO: English Language Program teacher Marlon Henriquez and bilingual teacher at Pilsen Community Academy Daniela Lugo prepare for a car caravan of supporters of the Chicago Teachers Union, as negotiations with Chicago Public Schools continue over a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) safety plan agreement in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 30, 2021. REUTERS/Eileen T. Meslar/File Photo


The Chicago Teachers Union approved an agreement with Chicago Public Schools to return to in-person learning, paving the way for students in the nation’s third-largest school district to return to classrooms for the first time since last March.

The proposal gained the approval of 67% of 20,000 members that voted. The vote ended the possibility of a lockout by the district or a teacher’s strike.

Prekindergarten and some special education students can return to class Thursday, while elementary school students can return by March and middle schoolers can return on March 8. The city committed to offering 2,000 coronavirus vaccine doses to staff members who will return to work on Thursday and providing another 1,500 doses a week in the weeks following. The agreement also lays out accommodations for delaying reopening and determining school closing and allows the formation of school safety committees that will ensure the school system meets safety standards. 

Discussions between the teachers union and district officials stalled for months as the union said the school district’s various offers did not go far enough. The negotiations turned bitter in recent weeks as Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot warned employees would be locked out of district systems if they did not show up on the original Feb. 1 return date, leading the union to threaten to strike.

“This vote reaffirms the strength and fairness of our plan, which provides families and employees certainty about returning to schools and guarantees the best possible health and safety protocols,” Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Janice Jackson said in a joint statement.

Union president Jesse Sharkey criticized the deal, noting it should have been the starting point for negotiations rather than the final deal. 

“This plan is not what any of us deserve. Not us. Not our students. Not their families. The fact that [the district] could not delay reopening a few short weeks to ramp up vaccinations and preparations in schools is a disgrace.” Sharkey wrote to union members. “That’s how much they care about real safety for students, their families and the educators and school staff who support them.”

Despite the agreement, a majority of students likely won’t sign up for in-person learning just yet; a district survey in December showed that only 37% of eligible students planned on returning to in-person learning over virtual learning.

The White House clarified its benchmarks for reopening schools Tuesday, noting President Joe Biden’s goal is to have more than 50% of schools with some in-person teaching at least one day a week by Day 100 of his presidency. That plan could hit roadblocks in California, as teachers’ unions in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco push for teachers to receive vaccinations before returning to the classroom. The Centers for Disease Control are expected to release new guidelines for reopening schools later this week. Even as vaccine rollout continues, school districts around the country are planning for the possibility that the coronavirus will disrupt in-person learning for a third school year.


This section includes an aggregation of articles showing different viewpoints on the topic.

It’s official: Final teacher vote seals deal to reopen Chicago schools – Chalkbeat Chicago – 2/10/2021
Members of the Chicago Teachers Union voted in favor of the agreement Wednesday — with 67% voting in favor and 32% voting againstThe union said 20,275 of more than 25,000 eligible teachers cast ballots. […] “This plan is not what any of us deserve. Not us. Not our students. Not their families,” union President Jesse Sharkey said in a statement. “The (agreement) represents the absolute limit to which CPS was willing to go at the bargaining table.”

CTU members approve CPS reopening deal, sending tens of thousands of students and teachers back to schools – Chicago Sun-Times – 2/10/2021
Chicago Teachers Union members have accepted school reopening terms offered by Chicago Public Schools, ending a monthslong standoff with district officials and setting the nation’s third-largest school system on a path to bring back tens of thousands of students and teachers to classrooms. The deal puts school workers on a fast track for vaccines, creates health and safety standards and committees for over 500 schools, lays out a comprehensive testing plan and delays the return of most students until March — all measures the union pushed for in protracted negotiations.

Chicago Teachers Approve School Reopening Deal – WBEZ Chicago – 2/10/2021
After a bitter fight, Chicago Teachers Union members have approved a reopening agreement with the school district that opens the door for in-person learning for elementary school students for the first time since the pandemic shuttered school buildings last March. […] The agreement comes after months of difficult negotiations, as well as threats of virtual classroom lockouts and strikes. At one point, Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared after a day of fruitless negotiations, that the city got a “big bag of nothing” from the union.

Chicago Teachers Union Suddenly Agrees To Immediate In-Person Classes After Threatening To Strike – Daily Caller – 2/10/2021
The teachers union approved the Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) proposed plan to return to in-person classes in a 13,681-to-6,585 vote Wednesday morning, the union announced. In-person instruction was supposed to begin on Feb. 1, but was delayed after the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) voted to defy the city’s plan in January.

Biden’s Schools Bid Pits CDC Science Against Union Clout – Bloomberg – 2/10/2021
President Joe Biden’s push to reopen U.S. schools is running headlong into his pledge to support teachers, who are demanding more coronavirus testing, vaccinations and other safety measures before returning to classrooms. The president has pledged to follow the science as he nudges schools toward welcoming more students back to class, while also enjoying broad support from teachers and their unions. First Lady Jill Biden, a teacher herself, welcomed the heads of the two top teachers unions to the White House on the administration’s first full day in office.

Rhode Island Kept Its Schools Open. This Is What Happened. – The New York Times – 2/10/2021
“Every day that a child is out of school,” she said, “is a problem for that child.” She shook her head slowly as she spoke. As bad as the numbers were in Rhode Island, she was about to bear down on a conviction she had held since the spring: Schools must remain open for in-person learning. Raimondo, who has two children in private school, has said that she sees school openings as a matter of equity.


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