The standoff between Chicago Public Schools and its teachers union appears to be reaching a breaking point Monday as staff have been given a final warning to report to facilities or they would lose access to their remote teaching tools — something the union previously has said would prompt a strike.
The nation’s third-largest school district initially planned on welcoming roughly 65,000 K-8 students back to its classrooms starting Monday, but the return fell through after the union voted and instructed its members to continue teaching remotely instead. Both sides are engaged in a dispute over what conditions are adequate to safely reopen Chicago’s schools during the coronavirus pandemic.
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Janice Jackson warned Sunday night that staff who don’t show up at its facilities Monday to start preparing for the students’ return – which the district has now pushed back to Tuesday – will lose access to their remote teaching tools.
“Why should Chicago stand out when everybody else across the country has been able to safely do this?” Jackson asked, alluding to other large districts that have already been able to reopen their doors to students in some capacity, despite their staff not entirely being vaccinated beforehand. “Why should CPS stand out when private and parochial schools in Chicago have been operating since the beginning of this school year?”
“Teachers and staff that fail to report to school tomorrow will have their access to Google Suites cut off at the end of the business day,” she added.
As of late Monday morning, a Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) spokesperson told Fox News that the union is “not yet” aware of any teachers being locked out of their remote learning programs.
The union, in an email to its rank-and-file last week, threatened it would order its second strike in less than two years “if CPS retaliates against members for exercising their right to a safe workplace.”
“We hope that we don’t get locked out tomorrow,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said Sunday night during a zoom call with other union officials. “Our members have been teaching remotely since March and have been making the best of a difficult situation.”
But “if they do lock us out, the next step is going to be for us to call our House of Delegates and make a decision about what comes next,” he added. “I hope that it doesn’t come to that because we remain ready, willing and able to deliver our own instruction.”
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is hoping both sides can reach a last-minute deal.
“Those who do not report to work – and I hate to even go there – but we are going to have to take action. Let’s avoid that,” she said during a news conference Sunday night. “Let’s avoid it in the first instance by getting a deal done … and that’s the message I gave to CTU President Jesse Sharkey.”
Chicago Public Schools did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday from Fox News.