Jan 5, 2022 - COVID

Chicago Public Schools cancels classes after union votes to go remote

Empty school hallway
Many school hallways may be mostly empty today after teachers union vote to protest COVID measures with a walk out. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Officials at Chicago Public Schools have canceled classes today after 73% of Chicago Teachers Union members voted to suspend in-person teaching to protest COVID safety conditions in schools.

  • The official word came down to CPS families at 11:28 pm last night.

Why it matters: The move affects the lives of about 360,000 students and staffers along with their families and the businesses that rely on them.

CPS view: District officials call the move "an illegal work stoppage" and a "walkout."

  • "There's no public health reason to shut the entire system down," said Mayor Lori Lightfoot at a press conference on Tuesday.

CTU view: Union officials call the move a vote to "return to remote education," but say they're being "locked out" of online teaching by CPS — which the district disputes.

  • "Don’t lock educators out for demanding safe in-person learning in face of the largest surge of pandemic," CTU officials said in a late night press statement.

The impetus: The CTU says CPS has ignored its longstanding safety demands on testing, masking and metrics that would trigger remote.

  • CPS CEO Pedro Martinez did offer some concessions Tuesday morning, but the two sides remain far apart on several points.

Testing: CTU wants CPS to require students and staff to show negative PCR tests to resume school, as Los Angeles schools are requiring.

  • CPS says it will continue to offer 30,000 screening tests a week and explore expanding testing.

Masks: CTU wants high quality masks for students and staff.

  • CPS says it has 200,000 KN95s for staff now and will provide more through January.

Metrics: CTU proposes going remote when 20% of school staff is in quarantine.

  • CPS wants to set the threshold at 40% of teachers being out for two consecutive days with documented COVID cases, among other conditions.

What they're saying: "We will serve any child that comes in [a school Wednesday] and make sure they're cared for," says CEO Martinez. "But ...we are canceling classes across the entire district if this vote goes in the affirmative."

The intrigue: CPS officials dodged questions Tuesday about why they recently bought 100,000 laptops and sent some home if they didn't anticipate remote learning.

The big picture: School districts across the nation including Washington DC, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Seattle, Newark, Milwaukee, Gary, Evanston, Skokie and Algonquin have all either delayed opening or gone temporarily remote for COVID safety.

  • This is just the latest in a series of standoffs between the CTU and Lightfoot, leaving CPS families caught in the middle.

What's next: Both CTU and CPS say they will announce next steps later today.

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