Chicago Public Schools could resume in-person classes this week after Chicago Teachers Union leaders agreed to a new set of COVID-19 protocols. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Monday that teachers would return to campuses on Tuesday with in-person instruction restarting Wednesday.
The agreement still needs to be approved by the full union, but the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates voted to suspend the online learning plan they launched last week as rank-and-file membership votes. The tentative agreement comes after four days of canceled classes.
Last week's attempt by CTU to swtich to remote learning amid a surge in COVID-19 cases prompted Chicago Public Schools to cancel all classes. The district, the third largest in the country, locked teachers out of their online teaching programs and withheld pay for the days they did not report for in-person instruction.
"This has been a very unpleasant experience," CTU President Jesse Sharkey late Monday, according to CBS Chicago. "The CTU felt like we were asking for a set of reasonable things — obviously as teachers who have been in buildings since the beginning of the school year."
CTU chief of staff Jen Johnson said in a virtual press conference Monday night that the agreement includes testing at leas 10% of students at each school for COVID-19 on a weekly basis. The union had been requesting much wider testing that parents would have to explicitly opt out of, but the district and Lightfoot would not agree to that. The plan also gves clear metrics for when schools would switch to remote learning, Johnson said.
Schools will go to remote learning if they are in an area of high transmission according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and 40% of students are in isoloation or quarantine due to COVID-19 protocols. Schools could also go remote if 50% of students are in isolation or quaratine even if the transmission rate is no longer considered high by CDC standards. Another scenario that could cause a school to switch to remote learning would be if 30% of teachers are in isolation and total teacher absences exceed 25% even with substitutes.
As negoatioations dragged on over the weekend, a Chicago Public Schools spokesperson said the district had also agreed to provide KN95 masks to students and staff, according to CBS Chicago.
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