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Classes Canceled Again Friday For Chicago Public Schools Amid Standoff With Union Over Remote Learning

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Thursday marked the second day of canceled classes for the Chicago Public Schools with the situation in in limbo – after the Chicago Teachers Union voted to move to remote learning and the city said they had no authority to make such a move.

Late Thursday, CPS announced that classes will be canceled for all students again on Friday - but a small number of schools may still be able to offer in-person activities.

"Please do not plan to send your child to school unless you hear otherwise from your child's principal," CPS said.

Late Thursday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS Chief Executive Officer Pedro Martinez said in a statement: "Bargaining sessions today started at noon and went into the evening. The sessions were productive from our perspective."

The Rev. Jesse Jackson was also seen leaving City Hall late Thursday after meeting with Mayor Lightfoot.
"Parents must really work to get the children vaccinated, on one hand. On the other hand, teachers – if the teacher tests positive, the whole class is out," Jackson said. "I think if we talk it out, we can figure it out."

It was unclear if anyone representing the CTU was at that meeting with the Rev. Jackson and the mayor.

But the question over what next week has in store continued to linger late Thursday.

As CBS 2's Chris Tye reported, 10 percent of teachers showed up to school on Wednesday. On Thursday, that figure rose to 12 percent.

That is not enough for the district to make any meaningful strides in getting kids back to class on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Public Schools has filed an injunction with the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board against the CTU.

The injunction said in part that "CTU illegally directed its members… not to report to work as directed but to work remotely instead." It said the union has "breached the collective bargaining agreement."

The Board of Education said in the injunction that it "requests a Cease and Desist Order."

Action on the legal front would not happen for at least 10 days. Meanwhile, the future remains in doubt for CPS parents.

"And now, we're in this very unstable situation," said parent Joanne Tong.

Last year's unstable COVID-19 situation led Tong to pull her third-grader from CPS.

This year, she said, "My plan is to boycott the remote learning if it goes to that."

So what is getting in the way of in-person learning? Sources told CBS 2 that a major sticking point is the threshold for when remote learning would be agreeable to both sides.

The CTU's proposal is when 20 percent of staff are out for two consecutive days, while CPS' proposal is when 40 percent of staff are out for three consecutive days.

Before the cancellation announcement, some schools have were trying to determine if they could salvage something in person Friday

A message to Lane Tech College Prep parents read: "Please click on the form below if you are interested in potentially coming into the building tomorrow for a short time for an activity. Based on district guidance, the availability of staff, and the interest level, we will let you know what is possible."

For families at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, a message read: "Based on extremely limited staffing we are unable to open our school for instruction or activities. We are hopeful this impasse will be resolved in the near future."

Steinmetz College Prep also canceled classes for Friday ahead of time.

"Based on the expected staffing levels at our school tomorrow, Friday, January 7, classes will be canceled for our students," Steinmetz officials wrote. "We hope to be able to welcome our students back to our school as soon as possible and will provide an update on our school's plan for next week shortly."

But while the situation remains in doubt for Friday, there was a problem already on Thursday. CPS soared past its record number of COVID cases.

A total of 271 cases came back positive from Tuesday among adults at CPS - more than doubling the last peak number from the middle of last month. There were 117 cases on Dec. 18.

There was also a doubling also for student cases from Tuesday with 422 positive cases, though that doubling came from test results from Monday. A total of 167 student positive cases were reported on Dec. 18.

The union also said late Thursday saying there was major progress late Wednesday night at the bargaining table, and both sides were back at the table Thursday.

The key sticking points remain - that metric of when to schools will close and go to remote learning, how to handle outbreaks, and issues surrounding testing and masking.


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