Monday, January 17, 2022

Chicago Teachers Agree To COVID Deal By Returning Kids To School

CHICAGO (AP) – Students in the nation’s third-largest district returned to classrooms on Wednesday after Chicago public schools canceled five-day classes amid a standoff with teachers’ union over COVID-19 safety protocols.

Their return came on the same day that all members of the Chicago Teachers Union approved a carefully crafted safety plan that includes expanded testing and indicators for the closure of selected schools during outbreaks.

Two days earlier, union leaders had given prior permission for the children to return. They urged participants to accept it, acknowledging that teachers did not receive initial requirements, including a commitment to use distance learning throughout the district during the surge in COVID-19 infections.

Union President Jesse Sharkey said the deal was “not a home run” but “the best we could get right now.”

Chicago’s struggles to educate children in the omicron spike are similar to those faced by counties across the country, but the latest high-profile brawl between teachers and Democrat Mayor Laurie Lightfoot has caught the attention of the White House and the governor’s office.

READ MORE: White House promises to send 10 million COVID-19 tests to schools

The union, which last week voted to return to online learning, ordered teachers not to show up in schools starting January 5 while negotiations are underway.

Lightfoot, who said Tuesday that she has tested positive for COVID-19 and is being isolated at home, has repeatedly refused to accept distance learning across the county. She also opposed teachers’ demands for a testing program that could randomly test all students, unless their parents refused.

Parents and students in Chicago had mixed feelings about returning to school buildings.

Derrontae Gonzalez, mother of a 5-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl in Chicago schools, said she understands why teachers are pushing for stricter COVID-19 protocols. But she told The Chicago Sun-Times that the cancellation days were tough, especially for her son, who has learning disabilities.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Gonzalez said of returning Wednesday to classes. “I think the school is taking precautions to keep the kids safe. And I make sure that my children have masks. “

Trinity Washington, a freshman at a high school on the northwest side of the city, said she supports the teacher’s aspirations and plans to be more careful about wearing a mask at school. She noted that the dean of the school was infected with COVID-19 and is on mechanical ventilation.

“I feel like everyone should just go home and stay virtual because it seems like everyone in our building is just sick and sick and sick,” she said.

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