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Chicago’s COVID-19 battle with teachers has dragged on for more than a second week

Talks between Chicago school leaders and teachers’ union have continued amid deadlock over distance learning and other COVID-19 safety measures

CHICAGO – Talks between Chicago school leaders and the teachers union resumed Sunday amid an impasse over distance learning and other COVID-19 safety measures that canceled three school days and hovering at the start of another week in the nation’s third largest county.

Disputed matters include testing and measuring for school closures. The Chicago Teachers Association wants the option to return to district-wide remote instruction, and most members have declined to teach in-person until an agreement is reached or the latest COVID-19 spike subsides. But Chicago leaders reject district-wide distance learning, saying it’s harmful and schools are safe. Instead, Chicago has opted to cancel classes for two days after students return from winter break.

Chicago Public Schools faces the same pandemic problems as other school districts across the country, with a greater shift toward distance learning as infections surge and staff members are pushed aside. But the situation in union-friendly Chicago has been amplified in a labor dispute familiar to low-income black and Latino families who have seen disruptions in their jobs. a similar safety protocol war last year, a strike in 2019 and a shutdown date in 2016.

“What the teachers union did was an illegal walk. They give up their positions and they abandon their kids and their families,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “We are working diligently every day at the bargaining table to narrow the differences and close a deal.”

Her statement is no longer as dismissive as the day before when, shortly after the union made its latest offer public, she said, “CTU leadership, you are not listening” and vowed not to. “Intimidation.” The offer she turned down included distance learning. starting Wednesday. Both parties have filed complaints with the state labor board.

Union leaders accuse Lightfoot of bullying, saying they agree face-to-face instruction is better, but the pandemic is forcing tough decisions. Attendance had dropped prior to cancellation as students and teachers were isolated from potential exposure to the virus and families voluntarily chose to keep children at home.

“Educators are not the enemy Mayor Lightfoot wants them to be,” the union said in a statement Sunday, adding that the desire to be in the classroom “must be balanced.” ways to ensure those classrooms are safe, healthy, and well-resourced, with the appropriate mitigation needed to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

There is some progress.

The district said late Saturday that it will allow more incentives for substitute teachers, provide KN95 masks to all teachers and students, and Illinois will provide approximately 350,000 antigen tests. But both sides remain far apart on key issues including how COVID-19 indicators will lead to individual school closures and compensation. The district says it won’t pay teachers who don’t report to schools, even when they try to log into remote teaching systems. The union doesn’t want any of its roughly 25,000 members to be disciplined or lose wages.

District leaders said some schools, where there are enough staff, could issue guidance Monday even without an agreement; All buildings remain open for meals. However, only a handful of principals said they have staff open, and many have canceled ahead of Monday classes, which are expected to be short.

School leaders have advertised a $100 million safety plan that includes air purifiers in every classroom. In addition, about 91% of employees have been vaccinated and must wear masks indoors.

Since the beginning of the school year, some individual classes have temporarily switched to distance learning in the event of an infection incident. But in denying a widespread return to distance learning, city health officials argued that most students were instructed to isolate because of the potential for classroom exposure not to have contracted COVID-19. . The district is piloting a “try to stay” program to cut quarantine times.

The union argued that these measures were ineffective, especially when considering the increase in omicron fuel supplies that have hindered a return to the workplace and to the classroom. It has also criticized the district for failing to enroll enough students in a testing program and an unreliable database of COVID-19 cases.

Seven families in the county, represented by the conservative Liberal Justice Center in Chicago, filed a lawsuit in Cook County over the closures last week, while about 5,000 others signed a petition to return. direct instruction.

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Follow Sophia Tareen on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sophiatareen.

https://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/chicagos-covid-19-fight-teachers-hangs-2nd-week-82164694 Chicago’s COVID-19 battle with teachers has dragged on for more than a second week

Emma Bowman

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