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‘This isn’t Chicago, this is New York’: NYC mayor slams city’s handling of CTU negotiations – NBC Chicago

New York City Mayor Eric Adams dug in a public address in Chicago Thursday, calling for the city’s handling of negotiations between officials and the teachers’ union over updated COVID-19 safety protocols in schools.

“This isn’t Chicago, this is New York, where we communicate because we’re both emotionally intelligent and we can work that out. We can get through this crisis and we will find the right way to raise our children in a very safe environment,” Adams said in his address.

Adams is considering allowing New York schools to return to some form of virtual instruction amid a surge in coronavirus cases, a reversal from his pledge a week ago to keep kids in schools.

The mayor of New York said at a news conference on Thursday that he still believes the safest place for children is school, “but we have to be honest that there are a significant number of children that parents go to they don’t bring school for whatever reason.”

After four days of missed classes, the Chicago Public Schools and Teachers Union concluded negotiations this week when the House of Representatives voted to suspend the union’s remote work action.

As a result, teachers returned to classrooms on Tuesday and students returned to in-person study on Wednesday. However, some students said the CPS and the teachers’ union had neglected their concerns.

A letter was sent to the CPS families on Thursday with the latest COVID safety protocols, which included information on the newly agreed-upon KN95 masks that will be available to city students and staff.

“Our goal throughout the process has been to get our students back to in-person study as quickly as possible and to avoid any disruption to work for the remainder of the school year,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said during a news conference Monday.

Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey called the negotiations “uncomfortable” and said that while the agreement was far from perfect, the union should be proud of reaching an agreement with city officials.

“It’s not a perfect agreement, but we can keep our heads up,” he said during a press conference on Monday.

On Monday night, CTU announced that its move to distance learning would be suspended due to the agreement, with a vote by union members on the proposed agreement expected this week.

The Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates tonight voted to suspend the union’s remote work action while grassroots membership votes on the proposed agreement.

— ChicagoTeachersUnion (@CTULocal1) January 11, 2022

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said the new agreement includes new metrics for when a classroom or school must switch to distance learning based on student absences or staffing issues.

The city also added new expanded testing with big push from the state, and Lightfoot says there will also be additional funding for new PPE and other supplies for schools, as well as new contact tracing proposals.

Classes have been canceled for more than 300,000 CPS students for four days of school after teachers voted to switch to distance learning last week, despite threats from Lightfoot that by doing so, educators would be committing an “illegal work stoppage”.

Sharkey defended the decision to vote to move to distance learning, saying the union raised numerous concerns with CPS over the summer and fall, to no avail.

“We realized that the Board of Ed did not want to negotiate with us on many of the key security features that we felt were necessary,” Sharkey said.

Sharkey said it had been a gradual process of increasing cases, along with the city’s reluctance to install more robust contact tracing and testing protocols, that led to discussions about a move to distance learning.

“The Omicron variant appeared at the end of November. It came on quickly and it came down to a school system that didn’t have the confidence, nor the mitigations, nor the surgeries to deal with it properly,” he said.

About 73% of teachers had voted to move to distance learning, but some teachers who did not support the move continued to report to schools.

City officials had argued that schools with protocols in place were safe. School leaders have touted a $100 million safety plan including air purifiers in every classroom. Around 91% of staff have been vaccinated and masks are compulsory indoors.

Some Chicago Public Schools students plan to leave classes Friday to protest the return to classrooms and make their way downtown to CPS headquarters.

“We call for CPS funds and put into practice all kinds of mutual aid projects – like cloak, food and resource actions. Full funding of CTA for all students, loading EBT cards,” said one student.

Organized by Chi-RADS, the Chicago Public School’s Radical Youth Alliance, students from at least 30 schools are expected Friday at 12:30 p.m.

Several groups planned smaller rallies outside of each school before making their way to CPS headquarters, located at 42 W. Madison, where a larger rally is scheduled for 1:45 p.m

“It won’t just be the inner city youth,” said a Chi-RADS member. “Parents have said they will show up, and then outside supporters will, too.”

As part of the full list of Chi-RADS demands, students are asking CPS to provide each student with a personal laptop, personal tutors after school hours, and full funding for arts programs, among other things.

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