Jan 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Chicago teachers union votes against returning to classrooms

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Chicago teachers prepare to teach their students remotely. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Chicago Teachers Union voted against returning to in-person learning despite the district's plan for K-8 students to return to classrooms on Feb 1, the Associated Press reports.

Why it matters: District officials have said that the union's decision to disobey the order to return to schools would violate the union’s collective bargaining agreement, which prohibits union members from striking. Union officials, however, say that teachers retuning to schools without being vaccinated would put them at greater risk of contracting the virus.

Driving the news: President Biden's plan to accelerate the reopening of K-8 schools faces major challenges, Axios' Kyle Daly writes. American students are falling behind due to remote learning yet inadequate contact tracing has made it harder to determine the risk of going back into classrooms.

Where it stands: Roughly 10,000 K-8 teachers from the nation’s third-largest school district are supposed to return to school on Monday to prepare for part-time in-school classes starting Feb. 1.

  • The district went fully remote last March because of the pandemic but has gradually welcomed students back.
  • Pre-K and special education students have started in-person instruction this month, and teachers who didn’t return to this model were punished.

What they're saying: The union is advocating for teachers and staffers to continue working from home until they have had at least the first of the two vaccines.

  • They argue that the district would be responsible for a work stoppage if it decides to punish teachers for staying home on Monday.

The other side: The district said it would begin vaccinating teachers and staff by mid-February but the process would take months.

Go deeper: Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic

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