Chicago Public Schools to give COVID update as CTU to vote Tuesday on remote learning walkout

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CHICAGO (WLS) — The Chicago Teachers Union is expected to hold a vote Tuesday night as some members want Chicago Public Schools to switch to remote learning because of a surge in COVID cases.

CPS students just returned from winter break Monday. But union leaders say the classroom is not safe for teachers, or students.

“Unfortunately, our union is again being backed into a corner of being the leader in the city that the mayor refuses to be,” said CTU VP Stacy Davis Gates.

CPS Teachers can only work remotely if they are sanctioned by the Board of Education. Union leaders said members who decide to work from home will likely have their pay docked.

Should parents be concerned about school return during COVID surge?

Chicago Pubic Schools CEO Pedro Martinez, acknowledged the district’s efforts to screen students in some of the city’s most vulnerable communities before Monday’s return from winter break had been a failure, after most of the at-home test kits returned were invalidated having been received by the lab too late. Martinez, however, said his visits to various schools Monday reinforced his view that learning should remain in person, targeting only affected classrooms for remote learning when needed.

“I want to give the flexibility to schools because I see such a variance with what’s happening with COVID,” Martinez said. I was at Park Manor, for example, where almost all the teachers are out. Very few of the teachers are there in person. Then I went to other schools where we have some staff that are out and most of the children are there.”

Martinez also said he’s determined to reach a negotiated agreement with the teachers union, but insisting a targeted, case-by-case approach is the best way to handle any outbreaks.

“The challenge with having a districtwide action is it puts everybody in the same umbrella and then it becomes very challenging at how you reverse that?” Martinez said. “We can keep it at the school level and respond to the data.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said, “The best thing that we can do for our students, staff and all our partners at CPS is to get vaccinated. Keeping kids safely in school where they can learn and thrive is what we should all be focused on.”

Some parents expressed mixed emotions on the current situation.

“I feel safe regardless,” said CPS parent Shuddeen Harriott. “I think this is something that we’re obviously going to have to live with.”

“With the rise in cases, it’s like any day now that somebody is going to come in contact with COVID,” said CPS parent Chris Fulton Sr.

Martinez will be joined by Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady for a press conference Tuesday.

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