Chicago teachers are back to keep kids at bay until January 18

CHICAGO – Closed-door negotiations resumed on Saturday to resolve a standoff between Chicago school officials and the city’s teachers’ union over COVID-19 precautions that canceled three school days this week, while the union has released its latest proposal to keep children and teachers online until mid-january.

As part of the program, teachers and their students would resume distance education on Wednesday, but would not return to class until January 18. The union relaxed its demand for broader mandatory testing, instead offering a random screening program that students could opt out of.

The Chicago Teachers Union, which voted this week to return to online teaching, told teachers not to show up at schools starting Wednesday while talks took place. The move just two days after the students returned from winter vacation prompted district officials to cancel classes in the district of about 350,000 students for three days, and many principals have warned parents that it was unlikely that they will be able to organize classes on Monday.

District officials and Mayor Lori Lightfoot did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the union’s proposal on Saturday.

But Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez and Lightfoot have maintained that moving the entire district to distance education is not an initiative, preferring to reserve this step in response to infections within a school. individual.

The union’s proposal maintained a trigger to end face-to-face instruction if COVID-19 rates in the city rise to certain levels.

“We absolutely have to make a deal,” Lightfoot said in an interview with WGN-TV on Friday afternoon, ahead of the release of the latest union proposal. “But we have to have one that’s fair, that’s reasonable, and covers the entire school year because I’m not going to go back to the table over and over and over and over and say ‘Enough please’ at (Chicago Teachers Union) to get our children back to school. “

Lightfoot is also in favor of an opt-in testing program contrary to the union’s position, saying parents should be the ones making this decision for their children. Lightfoot said in the interview negotiators made progress this week, without providing further details.

Other sticking points include measures to trigger individual school closings.

School districts across the country have faced the same issues, with most choosing to stay open while stepping up virus testing and fine-tuning protocols in response to the evolving pandemic. But a growing number of US districts, including some large school systems, have returned to distance learning as infections soar and staff are on the sidelines.

The union blasted the district for not doing enough, such as botching a testing program and maintaining unreliable data on infections in schools. They called for similar demands on a security deal put in place last year after fierce debate. However, the district says the pandemic is different now and requires a different response, especially as 91% of school staff are vaccinated.

Attendance was low in schools earlier this week, with thousands of students quarantined or choosing to stay home to avoid exposure.

Yet many parents have had to scramble to make last-minute arrangements for their children again. Others agreed that being outside of school was riskier than being in classrooms where masks and social distancing are used.

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Associated Press editor Sophia Tareen contributed to this report.

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Follow Sophia Tareen on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sophiatareen.



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