“All teachers, pre-K through eight and cluster teachers must report,” Lightfoot said in a press conference Sunday evening. “If you don’t have an approved accommodation, we expect to see you back in class. Those who do not report to work…we will have to take action. Let’s avoid that.”
CPS CEO Janice Jackson warned that teachers who refuse to show up for in-person instruction will be kicked out of the district’s remote learning computer system, Google Suites.
“My message to teachers is that we’re all on the same team. We all want the same thing, Jackson said. “We have to move past the debate on whether we should be reopening schools.”
According to Lightfoot, the Chicago Teacher’s Union did not show up for negotiations on Sunday. Lightfoot said that she hopes union leaders will continue to negotiate and urged CTU to have “a renewed sense of urgency” in reaching an agreement quickly.
“We have been waiting all day [Sunday] for in-person negotiations to begin,” said Lightfoot. “We will stay up all night to get a deal done. We have been waiting on the CTU. ‘Where are they? Why haven’t they come back to us?'”
CPS’ original plan aimed for a Feb. 1 return to the classroom for in-person learning, but fell through after a vote by the Chicago Teachers Union earlier this month instructed members to continue remote learning instead. In addition to 10,000 teachers, roughly 65,000 students were set to report on Monday.
As negotiations remain stalled, Lightfoot said parents should not bring their kids to school for in-person learning Monday, encouraging them to send kids to learning hubs offered by CPS. CPS said parents should aim to bring students back to school starting Tuesday, according to a letter issued to parents Sunday evening.
Both sides pointed fingers at each other on social media Sunday, with the teachers union tweeting that its bargaining team was “instructed not to attend negotiations today unless our teachers, clinicians, PSRPs, nurses, librarians and other rank-and-file educators were prepared to make major concessions.”
Chicago Public Schools responded saying CTU leadership said that they were “unavailable to meet until they could develop a response to our most recent offer.”
“Our team has been standing by all day,” they added.
CTU fired back with a lengthy Twitter thread, criticizing Lightfoot for “referring to the ‘hyper-democratic’ nature of CTU” in a negative light and noting that they are looking to their 28,000 rank-and-file members for leadership during this dispute.
“What our members are asking for is right in line with what school districts are doing across the country…We want the same for our educators and students in Chicago Public Schools,” the union added. “Parents, city, mayor, Board of Ed…everyone is clear: Our members are prepared to keep working and negotiating. If there is a choice to end negotiations, cause a crisis, or cut off 80 percent of students in the city who have chosen remote learning, that choice won’t be ours.”
The union is requesting that schools reopen once all teachers have been vaccinated. In addition, they want medically vulnerable teachers or those living with individuals with compromised health to have the option to work remotely and for schools to provide guidance based on health metrics if schools need to shut down in-person learning due to a spike in COVID-19 cases.
Lightfoot explained that Chicago Public Schools have been working with the union to find solutions that would allow students to return to in-person learning, with more than 70 formal meetings since June and a $100 million investment in health screenings, temperature checks, personal protective equipment and regular cleaning.
In addition, she noted that pre-kindergarten and cluster teachers had been back in classrooms for three weeks without any major issues and insisted that the CPS plan has been vetted by medical experts including Chicago Department of Health Director Dr. Allison Arwady.
“Remote learning doesn’t work for everyone, especially for our students most in need,”” Lightfoot said. “Our schools are safe.”
But CTU pointed out that, despite what Lightfoot and CPS say, the parents of more than 80% of Chicago’s eligible public school students have chosen to continue remote learning.
“Parents and families have spoken,” the union said.
The latest announcement comes after progress in negotiations was made on Saturday, with four tentative agreements on health and safety protocols, ventilation, contact tracing, and health and safety committees, according to Chicago Public Schools.