COVID-19 Spurs Chicago Teachers’ Unions to Revert to Virtual Schooling

Due to a recent rise in coronavirus infections, Chicago’s teachers’ union decided on Tuesday to revert to virtual learning, requiring classes to be postponed on Wednesday, according to district officials. 

The decision, backed by 73% of the union’s staff, calls for a moratorium on in-class learning until “cases considerably diminish” or until union leaders establish a deal with the district about safety standards.

The Decision by the Union

The Chicago school system is the third-largest in the country. The district’s students only returned to class on Monday, following a two-week winter holiday.

In a statement late Tuesday, the union stated the decision was reached with a sad heart and a sole emphasis on students and public safety. 

Chicago Public Schools authorities opted to keep schools running for in-person lessons only, claiming remote education has proven detrimental to children’s academic and emotional health throughout the epidemic. 

The union contended schools lacked adequate safety practices during the increase. 

Cases of COVID-19 have increased dramatically throughout the nation in recent weeks, following the identification of the highly infectious omicron strain. 

While the union described the vote as a return to remote teaching, district officials referred to it as a “walkout” and an unlawful work disruption.

A bitter struggle over identical concerns occurred in January, causing a rocky start to the district’s return to in-person education, following its first year of remote instruction in March 2020. 

Schools CEO Pedro Martinez stated irrespective of the union decision, facilities will stay open for administrators, employees, and “essential services,” but not for student education.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot also said absent teachers will be put on “no pay status.” 

The school district stated it donated 200,000 KN95 masks to instructors and would reinstate daily COVID-19 testing in response to the union’s 25,000 member complaints.

Still, the union stated it got the district’s offer shortly after the vote and would need time to analyze it. 

Lightfoot’s Reaction

Lightfoot pleaded with educators to attend lessons. Lightfoot, a Democrat, told parents on Twitter that she is doing all that is possible to keep children at school, where they belong, studying. 

She stated her government is negotiating a fair contract with the union.

However, they cannot tolerate unilateral action to close the whole district, denying thousands of children the necessary, safe, in-person learning environment. 

Per the New York Times, her administration chose to cancel courses entirely, rather than return to virtual learning. 

She said on Tuesday that nobody becomes a homeschooler on a whim. They can’t ignore how inconvenient the distant procedure is for single parents who have to work and can’t afford to stay at home.

She remarked Tuesday evening, during a news conference, that alternating between in-person and remote schooling is unfair to parents and destabilizes the system. 

Union officials stated more safety precautions were required and the COVID-19 outbreak resulted in personnel shortages.

The district announced Monday that around 82 percent of its approximately 21,600 teachers reported to work, which was lower than typical, but courses were covered by temporary staff and other personnel.

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