Chicago students set to return to school after teachers’ union and city reach agreement on Covid-19 measures
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The proposed deal is put to the vote of the 25,000 union members, which they began voting late Tuesday afternoon and will continue on Wednesday.
In the deadlock, 340,000 students in the third largest American school system have been out of school since January 4.
“I am certainly relieved to go back to class and see my students,” said Kathryn Rose, who is both a teacher and parent of Chicago Public Schools. “My kids are really excited to be going back too.”
Caroline Robinson, a dermatologist whose two daughters are students at CPS, told CNN she understands the unique situation the city, the school division and teachers find themselves in right now.
“I think everyone is going through a lot right now. So for teachers, they have life experiences. They have families to take care of. Each of them has a unique perspective through this pandemic. then the schools, they have to stay on staff, “Robinson said.” I’ve found that during this pandemic it’s really hard to take sides. We just have to work together because at the end of the day we have to educate our children, and that’s the only way to go. ”
The tentative agreement includes improved Covid-19 testing in schools and will run for the remainder of the school year, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.
“I hope the rest of the school year will be stable and uneventful,” she added. Lightfoot announced on Tuesday that she had tested positive for Covid-19.
The White House “welcomes the reopening of Chicago schools,” said press secretary Jen Psaki, noting that the administration was “in regular contact” with Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and Lightfoot.
Coronavirus testing in schools will increase by up to 10% of each school’s students tested each week, said Jen Johnson, Chicago Teachers Union chief of staff. Some 350,000 rapid antigenic tests have been delivered to the school district to help resolve testing issues, Pritzker said Monday evening.
The Chicago Department of Public Health has announced that it is distributing 1.9 million KN95 masks to communities this week. CRPD commissioner Dr Allison Arwady said officials made sure Chicago’s public schools had them for staff.
“We know a lot of people – frankly even a 50 cent or dollar mask is just an extra cost at a time which is difficult,” said Arwady, adding that they had over 100 community organizations – such as churches. and libraries – helping to distribute masks which are an upgrade to cloth masks.
The mayor’s administration will work with the teachers’ union, or CTU, to push families to increase test consents, Lightfoot said. “It is an essential element,” she said. “We want to achieve as many consent tests as possible.”
The proposal includes details on contact tracing and new incentives to increase the number of substitutes in the district, the mayor said.
The two sides also “came to an agreement on measures for, at the school level, when we need to convert a classroom or school to go distance. Not surprisingly, the building blocks of this depend on absences from the school. staff and / or students, “she said.
More details of the deal are expected to be released after all of the union’s base members start voting on Tuesday afternoon. The deal is expected to pass, a union official said.
How the school standoff evolved
The confrontation over in-person classes began on January 4 when the CTU voted to begin teaching virtually amid the increase in Covid-19 cases in the school system. In response, the school district canceled classes.
“I’m not going to say it’s a home run,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. “We’re happy it’s over, but we’re not happy we had to go through it in the first place.”
“We are still working on some details, but we anticipate that information will be sent to members tomorrow regarding the opening of the polls tomorrow,” Johnson said at a press conference on Monday evening.
Members want to “have time to meet their colleagues … and discuss the terms and really grapple with the strategic question of what’s and isn’t achievable right now with this mayor, and then, you know, keep going. Ballots are open for enough time to have that kind of dialogue and debate. “
CTU would also likely have another all-members meeting while the voting window is open to discuss details of the deal, Johnson said.
“We understand that people want to be able to voice their choice on a timeline that makes sense with what’s in the deal, and we’ll have to balance that by making sure the votes can take place,” Johnson said.
The district recorded a record number of Covid-19 cases last week
On the last day students were in classrooms, Chicago public schools reported 422 new cases of Covid-19 among students and 271 new cases among adults – two records for the school year.
CTU initially proposed to resume in-person teaching on Jan. 18, “unless (the Chicago Department of Public Health) or the State of Illinois determines public health conditions are not safe. for the school in person at the time “.
This isn’t the first time the school has been canceled due to a standoff between the teachers’ union and Lightfoot.
In 2019, the same year Lightfoot took office, more than 25,000 Chicago educators went on strike demanding more support staff, larger increases and limits on class size.
The 11-day strike ended when the city agreed to increase school staff, including more school nurses and 209 additional social worker positions – enough for a social worker at each school.
The deal also called for more funding to reduce oversized K-12 classrooms and more funding for recruiting and training.
CNN’s Adrienne Broaddus has reported from Chicago while Amir Vera, Holly Yan, Raja Razek and Chris Boyette have reported from Atlanta. Bill Kirkos, Jenn Selva, Omar Jimenez and Jasmine Wright contributed to this report.
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