CHICAGO – The Chicago Teachers Union continues to raise concerns about in-person learning in Chicago Public Schools, even as the two sides attempt to negotiate an agreement to bring high school students back later this month.
CPS has set a target return date of April 19 for high school students, who have been learning remotely for more than a year.
Referencing newer COVID-19 variants and increasing case counts in cities including Chicago, CTU President Jesse Sharkey said that the union is concerned about the virus’ spread and wants CPS to hold off on bringing more students back.
“We have asked the district to delay reopening school for students by a week in order to bargain with us about a safe return, in order to make sure we are not in fact at the very opening stages of a dangerous surge,” he said.
CPS officials did not immediately respond Wednesday morning.
The potential for an agreement does not mean an end is in sight, and Sharkey said he foresaw more points of tension around the start of next school year and a significant number of students continuing to stay home.
“We’re in a different bargaining situation than one we’ve ever been in. ... It’s continuous bargaining,” Sharkey said during a negotiations update late Tuesday, noting the union and CPS reached an agreement through bargaining for the resumption of in-person classes for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, “and now we’re bargaining reopening the high schools.”
“But,” he added, “this is only the latest crisis point ... in what’s going to be a whole series of these issues.”
The union’s latest push implores the district to provide vaccines for high school students and their relatives.
Union representatives also detailed some of their outstanding demands, including improvements to remote learning, modified high school schedules and remote work accommodations for members with medical conditions or medically vulnerable family members.