Schools in Chicago are canceling classes again as the fight with teachers over Covid takes place in the second week
Chicago school principals canceled classes on Monday for the fourth day in a row due to a stalemate with the local teachers union over distance learning and other Covid-19 safety protocols entered week two.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Sunday that negotiations over the weekend had failed to result in an agreement, which means classes would be canceled on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Teachers Union said it would hold a “day of action” throughout the day “as negotiations on a safe return to face-to-face teaching continue.”
The development comes after the union accused the city of not doing enough to ensure students and teachers can return to school safely amid rising Covid cases. It has been argued that students should continue distance learning and clash with city officials who want students back into the classroom, claiming this is one of the safest places they can be.
The Battle of Chicago underscores an ongoing debate across the country and around the world about whether it is safe for students and teachers to attend classes while the highly transmissible variant of Omicron continues to spread.
Many school districts have pushed for classes to continue, with officials in New York City’s school system, the largest in the country, swearing to double the school’s Covid tests and increase safety protocols. Meanwhile, school principals elsewhere, including New Jersey, have announced a temporary return to distance learning for early January.
In a Twitter statement on Sunday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said negotiations with union officials continued over the weekend but no agreement had been reached.
“Lessons on Monday will be canceled out of fairness and consideration for parents who need to prepare,” said Lightfoot. “Although we negotiated hard all day, there wasn’t enough progress to predict a return to class tomorrow.”
The statement came after Lightfoot appeared to express optimism about “productive” negotiations on Saturday.
She said that both she and Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez had agreed that the talks must be “closed” by the end of the weekend.
Later that day, however, Lightfoot appeared to change its tone and tweeted that the teachers’ union leaders were “not listening”.
“The best and safest place for children is school. The students need to get back in person as soon as possible, ”she said. “That’s what parents want. That supports science. We won’t give in.”
Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.
In a statement posted on its website, the Chicago Teachers Union said it would begin its “day of action” early Monday morning with a press conference with “simple educators, nurses” and others, to be streamed live on Facebook at 7:00 am local time.
The union said the press conference would be held at the Spry Elementary in Little Village, where “130 students were absent last week on Jan. 3 and more than 30 percent of the students in attendance tested positive for Covid-19”.
The union said it will also hold “city-wide classes with educators signing up for Covid-19 testing and neighborhood advertising,” with caravans going to Chicago City Hall around noon.
On Tuesday, the Chicago Teachers Union voted to return to virtual learning amid a spike in Covid cases in the city and district.
The move resulted in the city canceling classes on Wednesday, with return to school being canceled on Thursday and Friday.
“We wanted to stay away for a week or two until more people could be tested, because remember, suddenly there were no rapid tests anywhere and a two-hour wait for a PCR,” said Nora Flanagan, English teacher and high school mom of two children District that backed the union’s decision, NBC News said last week.
“Let’s take a week or two, protect everyone, make fewer families sick,” she said. “Let us acknowledge that while Omicron is mild in most cases, we are seeing pediatric hospitalizations of vaccinated children and we are seeing intensive care beds refilling.”
While support was given to the teachers’ union, there were backlashes: a group of parents from the district filed a lawsuit late Thursday calling for teachers to return to the classroom, branding the union’s decision to work remotely as ” illegal strike ”. “
At the start of the pandemic, there had been an agreement between the city’s school district and the union that allowed schools to stay secluded for at least two weeks if the Covid test positivity rate in Chicago rose at least 15 percent higher for seven consecutive days than the rate a week earlier and the rate on the seventh day 10 percent or more.
As of Friday night, the positivity rate in the city of Chicago was 21.1 percent. The city updates its data daily from Monday through Friday at 5:30 p.m. local time, with the next update being on Monday evening.
Daniella Silva contributed to this.