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While Calling For Injunction That Could Delay CPS Reopening Plan, Chicago Teachers Union Says Strike Is Not Off Table

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Deadlines and demands were issued Monday with regard to the return to in-person classes for Chicago Public Schools students.

As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported, parents have until midnight Monday night to decide if they want their children to return to the classroom this winter.

And it is a big decision. Parents who opt their children to return to school can always return to all-remote learning at a later date, but those who opt out must remain remote for the rest of the school year.

And the Chicago Teachers Union on Monday took a legal step to keep anyone from returning to class until some demands are met. In an injunction, the union asked the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board to halt the return to in-person learning until terms can be "determined by good-faith collective bargaining instead of by executive fiat."

It is the latest maneuver in the ongoing tug of war between the CTU and the Chicago Public Schools about returning students to classrooms – with some of them due back in a month.

"CPS' position has been, you know, 'Talk with us about other things,' but on the key question of whether it's safe to open schools they're saying they don't have to bargain with us," said CTU President Jesse Sharkey.

CPS officials said they have been talking to the CTU since Nov. 1, but the union has not provided any specific proposal to improve CPS' current plan. It is a back-and-forth about a very emotional and divisive issue.

Over the weekend, a now-deleted CTU tweet called the push to reopen schools "rooted in sexism, racism and misogyny."

"I don't run the CTU's Twitter handle," Sharkey said.

The tweet added fuel to the perception by some that the CTU is obstructing the return to class.

So what will it take for the CTU to say, "All right, let's work together, and let's come up with this plan, and we're ready to go?" Kozlov asked.

"Right now, we're asking for a safety plan and the public health criteria," Sharkey said. "That's important."

Sharkey said the union also wants parent input and certain equity issues addressed prior to the teachers' return. CPS Chief Executive Officer Dr. Janice Jackson cited various studies and data showing a return to school is safe, adding that it is needed to counter "dire educational consequences" for many students.

Sharkey said teachers want to go back. But he also said a strike isn't out of the question.

"So yeah, it's potentially it could be, but like, it's not what we're talking about right now," Sharkey said. "What we're talking about right now is bargain with us. Let's make a plan. We'd like to see that work."

A representative of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board said the CTU's request for an injunction will not be ruled on until Dec. 17, the date of the board's next meeting.

That is just two and a half weeks before some teachers are set to return.

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