Youngrae Kim / AP
A dispute drags on between the Chicago public school system and its teachers ‘union, with both sides negotiating an end to the city educators’ stoppage.
Teachers began refusing to show up for their jobs in person on Wednesday as COVID-19 cases exploded in the city, causing classes to be canceled for about 300,000 students in the country’s third largest school district.
Neither side had announced an end to the dispute by Sunday morning, suggesting the stalemate could move into a second week.
For the majority of the students, classes were canceled on Monday, Chicago Solar times reported.
The increasingly controversial controversy revolves around whether it is safe for students, teachers and staff to return to schools, as the highly contagious variant of Omicron is causing record infections across the country.
The Chicago Teachers Union has requested a number of additional security measures to prevent the transmission of COVID in school, such as a weekly testing program. So far, the city has refused to go along with all of the union’s demands, and last week it rejected teachers’s calls for distance learning, instead canceling classes entirely.
“[Y]You’re not listening, “Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot told the union in one tweet on Saturday.
“The best and safest place for children is school. The students need to get back in person as soon as possible, ”she said. “That’s what parents want. That supports science. We won’t give in.”
A day earlier, Lightfoot said she and Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez thought negotiations with the teachers’ union were “productive” but had to close over the weekend.
In addition to the tests, the union said in a sweeping proposal on Saturday that it would return to classrooms on Jan. 18 when the district made KN95 masks available to staff and students, and switch back to distance learning when they did City’s COVID Positivity Rate set a certain threshold and agreed to a number of other suggestions.
“Our union is in a position of strength and, as we know, the mayoress insists she doesn’t move until she does,” the union said in a statement. “At the moment she’s talking harshly, but with little influence, especially when so many see our offer as a sensible package of compromises to ensure personal teaching * and * more safety for students, families, educators and communities.”
The district, which called the union’s action an “illegal strike”, announced on Saturday that it would reject parts of the latest proposal. Students and teachers should return to the classroom as soon as possible and conduct a testing program for each child only with the express consent of their parents.
“We haven’t sat idle and let COVID rush through our schools,” Lightfoot said while appearing on NBCs Meet the press on Sunday to defend the district’s response to the pandemic. “If it was necessary to close a classroom or school to take distance learning, we did.”
The district also opposed other parts of the proposal, but agreed to some union demands, such as the provision of KN95 masks and the provision of monetary incentives for substitute teachers.