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CPS Moves Return Date For Teachers To Wednesday After Chicago Teachers Union Votes Against Return To In-Person Learning

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Chicago Public Schools on Sunday changed the return date for K-8 teachers from Monday to Wednesday, after Chicago Teachers Union members voted to defy an order from Chicago Public Schools to return to in-person instruction.

On Monday, CTU plans to hold a virtual press conference at 6:30 a.m. before negotiations with CPS continue Monday afternoon.

Kindergarten through eighth grade teachers were scheduled to return to classrooms Monday, Jan. 25. Students in kindergarten through eighth grade are set to return a week later on Monday, Feb. 1. In response to the CTU vote, CPS pushed the return date to Wednesday, Jan. 27, as bargaining continues. The scheduled return date for students has not changed.

Remote learning will continue until then, and those students and teachers who have already returned to in person learning for pre-kindergarten and special education cluster classes will continue.

CPS previously called the move an attempt to "cancel in-person learning for tens of thousands" of children, and added that it would amount to, and be treated as, an illegal strike. CTU members argue it would only be a strike if teachers cannot log on for remote learning. Some teachers have already been locked out of their accounts.

As CBS 2's Chris Tye reported, the union and CPS negotiated for a full day and night. The union has said some teachers are terrified for their safety related to COVID.

On Sunday afternoon, CPS announced: "CPS and CTU officials have been meeting over the weekend with the goal of reaching an agreement that provides for a smooth expansion of in-person learning. We now agree on far more than we disagree, but our discussions remain ongoing, and additional time is needed to reach a resolution. To ensure we have the time needed to resolve our discussions without risking disruption to student learning, we have agreed to a request from CTU leadership to push back the return of K-8 teachers and staff to Wednesday, Jan. 27."

But the CTU said the claim that CPS had "agreed to a request from CTU leadership" to push back the date by two days is not accurate, and said CPS' announcement sought to "sow dissent and disrupt collective Union action."

The CTU called the decision to move the date "unilateral" and said it had "no agreement with the district on any terms."

"The overwhelming majority of our members have chosen safety, unity and solidarity, and an agreement is within reach, but we need a willing partner," CTU President Jesse Sharkey said in a news release. "Emails like that don't help."

Of the vote to authorize continued remote teaching, Sharkey sad in the release, "Our collective power is our greatest strength, and this vote cements our intention to continue to stand together in unity to land an agreement that protects educators, students and all of our CPS families."

CTU argues that a return to the classroom before teachers are vaccinated against COVID-19 is unsafe. The district has announced plans to vaccinate staff, but that process would not begin until mid-February.

A handful of parents making a plea for in-person learning gathered outside the CTU's headquarters at 1901 W. Carroll Ave. Saturday evening. Some parents argued suburban and private schools are successfully holding in-person learning, so why not CPS?

CBS 2's Chris Tye contributed to this report.

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