The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), which voted Tuesday to reinstate remote teaching until coronavirus incidences in the city drop, voted Tuesday. In response, school district officials — who oppose a return to virtual learning — cancelled all classes for Wednesday, a move that affected more than 340,000 studentsThe third-largest school district of the country.
Chicago Public Schools, (CPS) is also available locked teachers out of their Google Classroom accountsThey were unable to interact with students and could not give students updates about the lesson plans for the day. District officials stated that they would update the plan to resume classes by Wednesday.
In its vote on Tuesday, 73 percent of CTU teachers said they supported a return to virtual learning — a move the union said was difficult but necessary.
“As educators, parents, neighbors and community members, we had to make the tough decision to support a resolution to return to remote learning in our city’s public schools,” a statement from CTU read. “This decision was made with a heavy heart and a singular focus on student and community safety.”
CTU leaders pointed out that the school district still has not addressed concerns regarding the spread of COVID-19, which teachers have raised to the school board for months. This is despite the fact that Omicron is rapidly spreading.
“The layers of mitigation that we need to keep our schools open and keep our students inside of the school buildings have not happened here in Chicago,” CTU vice president Stacy Davis Gates said to CNN.
The union has long advocated for more testing for students and teachers. However, the district has yet to implement this measure.
“If we had testing, if we had a way to help ensure that people coming into the buildings weren’t carrying the Omicron variant, that would be a different matter, but that’s not what’s going on right now,” CTU president Jesse Sharkey said.
The school district has ignored other agreements it made to the union, including thresholds that required a return of virtual learning if the pandemic got worse. CTU and CPS were both dissolved in February. agreed to “pause in-person learning for 14 days and transition fully to remote instruction” if certain criteria were reached, including seven consecutive days of rate increases — rates being at least 15 percent higher on each of those days than they were the week prior. They decided that the positivity rate in Chicago should be at least 10 percent higher than it was the previous week in order to pause instruction in-person.
All of these metrics were met. Positive attitudes are high in Cook County, Illinois. have far exceeded that thresholdThe area has seen an increase of 121 percent in COVID-19-related cases in the past week and a 60% increase in hospitalizations overall.
Coronavirus cases have had a negative effect on children in the area. “We are seeing twice as many kids in the hospital who are testing positive for COVID than we saw even back in our bad peak in September,” Allison Bartlett, associate professor of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Chicago, said to NBC 5 ChicagoLast week.
CTU members supported their votes on social media and said that they needed to make changes to protect students and teachers before they would accept to go back to in-person instruction.
“I voted yes because I only have 3 fully vaccinated students and nothing would break my heart more than one of them getting sick and hospitalized with COVID,” said CTU member and organizer Abby Agriesti. “This is for everyone’s safety.”
CTU member Katie Sedai suggested that city leaders, including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, didn’t have a clear picture of what was going on within the district.
“I do get the feeling that [because]Our Mayor has such a toxic leadership style that she has probably not been told the truth [conditions] in schools right now,” Sedai said on Twitter. “I could see the [people] still around her being too frightened to tell her the full story & even if they did, her being too proud to hear.”
Many educators in Chicago schools are frustrated with Lightfoot’s refusal to take their fears seriously. In early December, as educators in the city were expressing deep concern about the spread of the virus, a longtime teacher’s aide, 44-year-old jonL Bush, died due to COVID-19. When CTU brought up Bush’s passing as an example for why better mitigation measures were needed in schools, Lightfoot accused the union of trying to “score political points.”
Sedai stated that most teachers will continue working on Wednesday, even though school was cancelled.
“I will be working today regardless. … I will lesson plan. I will prep materials,” Sedai said. “I am available & ready to work. Why aren’t you, @ChiPubSchools?”