Public school students in Chicago woke up Monday facing another day of canceled classes, as a labor stalemate continued between the city and its teachers’ union over in-person instruction and pandemic safety.
Hundreds of thousands of students in Chicago’s school district, the third largest in the country, have not attended school since classes were dismissed last Tuesday, because members of the Chicago Teachers Union voted to stop reporting to work amid concerns over the rapidly spreading Omicron variant. The city announced on Sunday night that classes would not resume Monday.
Concerned about the safety of its teachers’, the union demanded that the city temporarily switch to virtual learning.
“Honestly, remote learning is an important tool. We’ve learned a lot about what to do and not to do around it,” Jesse Sharkey, the union president, said at a news conference on Saturday. He acknowledged that remote education was not as effective and efficient as in-person schooling. “But we’re dealing with the high point of a surge, and we have to have adequate safety measures in place.”
The union proposed that teachers would distribute equipment and materials for online instruction. They would also help parents sign up to virus testing on Monday and Tuesday. Students would then be taught remotely the rest of the week under the proposal.
City officials have repeatedly rejected remote education as an option. But on Sunday morning on the NBC program “Meet the Press,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said her team spent Saturday evening drafting a new proposal to give to the union. The classes will still be in-person but the mayor said that the new proposal had a list conditions that could trigger virtual learning on a school by school basis.
Both sides reported that they were still in negotiations on Sunday night, but the parties displayed some animosity that has characterised the talks.
On “Meet the Press,” Ms. Lightfoot condemned the union for “being critical and throwing bombs.” And she described the union’s vote last week to stop reporting to work as an illegal walkout. “They abandoned their post, and they abandoned kids and their families,” Ms. Lightfoot said.
In a statement on Sunday, the union said that “educators are not the enemy Mayor Lightfoot wants them to be. They are parents, grandparents, clergy, community partners and Chicagoans.”
Source: NY Times