A dispute over COVID safety protocols between the Chicago Teachers Union and the city’s school district has resulted in the cancellation of classes on Wednesday (January 5). On Tuesday night, 73% of the teachers voted in favor of returning to remote learning as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the city.
“This is a virus that’s raging through the city,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey told reporters. “We want to teach, and we want to do what’s right for our students. And we are prepared to do that remotely starting today.”
He added that district officials “failed to deliver a whole number of basic demands that we need in the schools, has failed to provide adequate staffing, adequate cleaning in the schools, has failed to provide adequate testing, has failed to address our concerns as people going to the schools.”
City officials have been adamant that a district-wide return to remote learning is off the table and called the actions by the union an “illegal work stoppage.” They said that staff members are expected to show up to work and will not be compensated if they refuse.
“I have to tell you it feels like Groundhog Day,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. “CTU leadership is compelling its membership to make a decision that will harm hundreds of thousands of Chicago families who rely upon CPS for the daily needs for their education, for their nutrition, for their safety. That’s real harm.”
While classes and extracurricular activities have been canceled, the schools will still offer food services from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. for students. In addition, planned testing and vaccination events will still happen.
The decision by the teachers to push for remote learning has left many parents upset and angry.
“I am very disappointed in the Chicago Teachers Union for the fearmongering tactics and negative rhetoric regarding this vote. I am equally disappointed in the CPS CEO and our mayor,” parent Carolina Barrera Tobón told CNN.