Chicago lecturers are voting on job promotions claiming faculties are usually not able to reopen

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective face masks walk as the global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues on the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois

By Brendan O’Brien

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Teachers in Chicago will vote on Saturday on a resolution not to return to classrooms next week. The third largest school system in the U.S. lacks an adequate plan to safely reopen schools amid the pandemic.

Voting results expected on Sunday could jeopardize the gradual reopening of Chicago Public Schools as the district plans to offer face-to-face tuition to 70,000 elementary and middle school students.

Around 10,000 educators are expected to report to their schools on Monday to prepare for these classes. Janice Jackson, CEO of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) said on Friday that if these educators fail to show up for work, it would constitute an illegal strike by the Chicago Teachers Union.

“We continue to meet with the CTU leadership every day – as we have done more than 60 times in the past few months – and we are optimistic that an agreement is within reach,” she said in a letter to the Parents on Friday evening.

According to Jackson, health officials agree that schools with mitigation strategies in place can safely reopen. She added the district has invested $ 100 million and “tons of planning hours” to keep our school communities safe.

The vast majority of teachers in Chicago have been teaching the system’s 355,000 students remotely since last spring when the spread of the virus forced the district to close schools.

Since then, the Chicago Teachers Union has insisted that Chicago schools lack adequate ventilation, cleaning supplies, and personal protective equipment to reopen.

It has also been alleged that CPS lacks adequate safety protocols while urging the district to act “quickly” to vaccinate teachers who are expected to get gunshots in mid-February.

“Our commitment remains the same: to protect lives as we work to find an enforceable agreement to return to our school buildings safely,” the union said in a statement on Friday.

Public school teachers across the country have raised similar concerns and urged their districts not to reopen until they have more thorough plans to protect them and the students from the virus.

The potential labor action in Chicago comes 15 months after the city teachers’ strike for 11 days during a bitter labor dispute over overcrowded classrooms and in support of staff and pay.

“The rhetoric, the strikes, the fighting – these are wreaking havoc on families in this city,” wrote a group of parents on the north side of the city in a letter to the district and the union, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Earlier this month, CPS began executing its reopening plan, which will allow 6,500 preschool and special school children to attend classes in person.

A third of the 3,800 teachers and paraprofessionals did not initially show up for work. As of January 15, 87 of these educators remained locked out of their virtual classrooms because they had not reported, according to the district.

The next step in the district’s reopening plan comes on February 1, when around 70,000 elementary and middle school students will be re-housed in classrooms after deciding to visit some of their classes in person and post the reminder online.

The district has not yet announced when students will have the opportunity to return to school buildings.

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