Chicago students return to school after teachers’ union and city agree on Covid-19 safety measures

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Teachers in the district returned to work on Tuesday, when the 25,000 union members voted to approve or reject the compromise reached with the district.

As CTU and the city negotiated over the past week, classes were canceled for 340,000 students. The dispute has highlighted a debate unfolding in school districts across the country as they attempt to strike a balance between the benefits of in-person instruction and the health concerns, as the highly transmissible variant of Omicron is increasing the number of cases.

“I’m certainly relieved to go back to class and see my students, and my kids are really excited to be back too,” said Kathryn Rose, a Chicago teacher and mother of school-aged children. “It was frustrating just sitting at home healthy and wanting to be in class.”

Rose said she had always felt safe with the school’s mitigation measures and did not think a district-wide closure was necessary.

“When you close schools, you ignore the myriad of dangers outside the classroom, like abuse, hunger, and lack of warmth and violence. And these are things Chicago families really care about. taken, ”Rose said.

Xuan-Vu Nguyen, whose 12-year-old son is a student in the district, said she was also relieved at the schools reopening. “My first reaction was, ‘Yeah!'”

But, she added, “We are worried if and when this will happen again without any notice.”

Parents were not notified in advance of the school closing and her family had to give up everything to adjust to the change, Nguyen said, frustrating her. “As a parent, I was powerless. Nowhere to express my concerns, nowhere to ask questions, really, about when this was going to end.”

Union members vote on proposed deal

The tentative agreement between the union, CTU and the district will run through the remainder of the school year, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said on Monday.

As part of the deal, Covid-19 testing in schools will increase by up to 10% of each school’s students tested each week, CTU chief of staff Jen Johnson said.

The mayor’s office will work with the teachers’ union to urge families to increase test consents, Lightfoot said. “It is an essential element,” she said. “We want to achieve as many consent tests as possible.”

The proposal includes details on contact tracing and new incentives to increase the number of substitutes in the district, the mayor said.

The two sides also “came to an agreement on measures for, at the school level, when we need to convert a classroom or a school to go distance. Not surprisingly, the building blocks of this depend on absences from the school. staff and / or students, “she said.

Full details of the deal were to be released after the union’s base members voted on the proposal.

Voting began late Tuesday and is expected to be open for 24 hours, in time for a regular CTU House of Delegates meeting on Wednesday afternoon, a union official told CNN on Tuesday.

The proposal is expected to be approved by members, the union official said.

If grassroots union members reject the proposed deal, the decision on how to proceed would rest with the House of Delegates. Options could include staying in person while negotiations continue or reverting to a push for distance learning courses while final negotiations continue.

The pandemic affects schools across the country

The stalemate in Chicago began last week when the union voted to start teaching virtually due to the increase in Covid-19 cases in the school system. In response, the school district canceled classes during negotiations.

On January 4, the last day students were in classrooms, Chicago public schools reported 422 new cases of Covid-19 among students and 271 new cases among adults – both records for the year school.

Desperate to fill teacher shortages, school districts are asking parents and various staff to become substitutes
Nationally, the vast majority of schools are operating normally, but there were at least 2,685 schools that were not offering in-person learning as of Tuesday, according to Burbio data company, which aggregates data based on school calendars and other sources.
In Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school district, 66,000 cases of Covid-19 were reported among students and staff as they returned to in-person instruction on Tuesday. The neighborhood need a Covid-19 test for all students and employees, regardless of their vaccination status, before their return from winter vacation. Superintendent Megan Reilly said every adult on school campuses and more than 80% of students over 12 are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
The Clark County School District in Nevada – the fourth largest in the United States – is take a “five-day break” from Friday to deal with its “extreme staff shortages due to the high number of positive Covid-19 cases”. Students will not have school next Friday or Tuesday, January 18. Monday was already scheduled as the day off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
In Philadelphia, nearly a third of the city’s schools have switched to distance learning due to a combination of the threshold level of positive Covid-19 cases and a review of staff data. “We will continue to make school-by-school decisions based on the most recent staffing data and ask you to prepare for the possibility of virtual learning at any time,” Superintendent Dr. William Hite said in a statement. declaration Tuesday.
From Europe to the United States, cases of Covid in children are increasing.  Schools are not prepared
Cincinnati public schools are temporarily removed due to “ongoing staff shortages that are a result of increased community spread of Covid-19”, the district said in a press release Monday.
Schools in Santa Fe, New Mexico, will go virtual starting Jan. 18, with a return to in-person teaching scheduled for Jan. 24 “if conditions improve,” according to one. district declaration.

Superintendent Larry Chavez said the change is due to a spike in Covid-19 cases. “The SFPS ended last week with 361 cases involving students and staff, the largest on record in a week for our district, and many are still under investigation. 600 this week and we’ve seen an increase in the spread in classrooms, ”Chavez said.

CNN’s Omar Jimenez, Raja Razek, Amir Vera and Adrienne Broaddus contributed to this report.

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