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CPS Students To Remain Remote Tuesday, Wednesday Amid Call For '48-Hour Cooling-Off Period;' Teachers' Union Says Bargaining Will Resume Tuesday

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Chicago Public Schools students will remain in remote learning Tuesday and Wednesday.

This comes as CPS and Mayor Lori Lightfoot called for "48-hour cooling-off period" in negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union.

Mayor Lightfoot and CPS Chief Executive Officer Dr. Janice Jackson released the following statement, which also said teachers would retain access to their remote teaching software following threats that it would be cut off:

"We have reached another important milestone today in our efforts to provide in-person learning for our students in the Chicago Public Schools system. We have secured agreement on one other open issue and made substantial progress on a framework that we hope will address the remaining issues. We are calling for a 48-hour cooling off period that will hopefully lead to a final resolution on all open issues. As a result of the progress we have made, and as a gesture of good faith, for now, teachers will retain access to their Google Suite. Students will remain virtual Tuesday and Wednesday and we will update the CPS school community as there are further developments."

A statement late Monday from Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey said the CTU and CPS would resume bargaining on Tuesday, as well as Wednesday.

"The mayor and CPS have announced a 'two-day cooling off period' and said they'll continue bargaining Tuesday and Wednesday, as our members continue to teach and work remotely," Sharkey said in the statement. "We continue to teach because of our members' unity, their commitment to their school communities, and their fearless solidarity."

Sharkey said in the statement that the CTU is not looking for a strike.

"We want to keep working remotely as we bargain an agreement to return to our classrooms safely. And we're one step closer to that goal today, because management has agreed to stay at the table rather than escalating conflict or locking out educators," he wrote.

CPS students also learned remotely on Monday, because the district still hasn't reached a deal with the Chicago Teachers Union on reopening schools.

The mayor had wanted kindergarten through eighth-grade students back in class on Tuesday – but the union said that is when they just might strike.

There had been seven issues dividing the two sides. As of late Monday, three remained unresolved. The Mayor's office and CPS did not specify which one of those three had been resolved since CBS 2's Chris Tye's 5 p.m. report.

Issue One: Vaccination Plans
The union wants more concrete details on how the city will offer and execute vaccinations for its members – who are all part of the 1B vaccination group that is now eligible.

The city says teacher vaccinations could begin as early as mid-February.

Issue Two: Remote Work Plans
Some teachers have been permitted to work from home to care for at-risk relatives. But the union wants added clarity on policies surrounding work from home educators.

Issue Three: Metrics For Future Closures
The union wants benchmarks to clearly outline how future COVID spikes would trigger future school closures.

They say CPS won't agree to standards such as those set up by the Centers for Disease Control.

Also unknown was how many teachers failed to report to schools on Monday.

CPS had wanted teachers to show up to school buildings on Monday in preparation for Tuesday, when the district plans to bring many students back for in-person classes; specifically, pre-kindergarten students and some special education clusters who first returned to in-person learning last month, and students in kindergarten through eighth grade – who initially had been scheduled to return to class Monday before CPS changed the date to Tuesday out of concern that not enough teachers would be turning up.

There had been a warning earlier that some teachers who defied city orders by not showing up in classrooms on Monday would be locked out of CPS online teaching platforms.

While CPS and the Mayor's office walked that warning back late Monday, it had set the stage for a potential repeat of the 2019 teachers' strike.

Sharkey said Sunday, "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."

But despite the warning from Mayor Lightfoot "action" would be taken against teachers who did not show up on Monday, they are not being penalized for failing to do so.

CPS and the CTU met virtually for six hours on Monday.

On Saturday, CPS said it had reached tentative agreements with CTU on four areas: health and safety protocols, ventilation, contact tracing, and health and safety committees. However, negotiations came to a halt on Sunday, with both sides blaming the other.

"We've been waiting all day today for in person negotiations to begin. We have been waiting on the CTU, and I have been directing my team every hour on the hour: 'Where are they? why haven't they come back to us, and what is going on?" Lightfoot said Sunday evening.

But the union pointed the finger back at CPS. In a tweet, CTU said: "The CPS 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."

CPS said that was not true.

"Fact check: Our bargaining team was told by CTU leadership 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," CPS tweeted in turn.

Meanwhile, Mayor Lightfoot also got some pushback for a remark she made Monday morning on a national cable news show. She said the city has a robust vaccination plan for teachers and support staff.

CTU members fired back, saying teachers still don't have access to appointments at city-run vaccination centers.

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