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Chicago Teachers Union approves COVID-19 protocols as students return for in-person learning

Chicago schools reopen after COVID dispute
Chicago public schools reopen for students after city, teachers reach deal 03:05

The Chicago Teachers Union voted late Wednesday to approve a new set of COVID-19 protocols, the union announced, ending a dispute with Chicago Public Schools that resulted in several days of canceled classes. But the union said the agreement "covers only a portion" of its proposed safety protocols and vowed to continue efforts to push for further health measures. 

"We are pleased we have come to an agreement that guarantees predictability and stability for the rest of the school year," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez said in a joint statement after the measures were approved. "We all agree we must prioritize the health and well-being of everyone in our school. communities including our kids, families, and staff." 

The agreement includes expanded COVID testing, specific thresholds for when individual schools can switch to remote learning and requirements for the district to provide KN95 masks. It passed with 55.5% of the union voting in favor, CTU said.

"I'm extremely proud of the courage and sacrifice of our members, who took a stand in working remotely for four days in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our school communities," Chicago Teachers Union president Jesse Sharkey said in a statement Wednesday. 

After a tentative agreemend was reached on Monday, teachers and staff returned to work Tuesday, while students came back to classrooms Wednesday. Nearly 89% of teachers came to work and no district-run buildings had to operate remotely, the school district, which is the third largest in the country, said.

Last week, the Chicago Teachers Union voted to switch to remote learning amid a surge in COVID-19. The school district then canceled classes, locked teachers out of their online teaching programs and withheld pay for the days teachers did not come to teach in person. Classes were canceled for five days before students returned Wednesday.

"It's outrageous that teachers, school nurses, counselors and more had to endure a week of being locked out by the mayor just to get a commitment from her bargaining team to provide every student with an N95 mask in a pandemic," Sharkey said Wednesday. "Put bluntly, we have a boss who does not know how to negotiate, does not know how to hear real concerns and is not willing to respect our rank and file enough to listen to us when we tell her we need more protection."

He said the agreement is just the beginning of the union's efforts to "continue protecting the safety of our students and their families."

Jordan Freiman contributed reporting.

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