Chicago Teachers Union Plans to Mobilize Against Reopening Schools

An empty classroom is pictured at the Saint-Exupery school in the Paris' suburb of La Courneuve on May 14, 2020 as primary schools in France re-open this week after an almost two-month closure due to the lockdown imposed since March 17 to curb the spread of the COVID-19 disease caused …
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The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) announced Sunday a mobilization effort by “parents, neighborhood residents,” and teachers against what it calls a “dangerous” plan to reopen Chicago Public Schools (CPS) for in-person learning.

The union said in a press release that “over 50 Chicago neighborhoods” are showing “double digit positivity” for the COVID-19 virus, with teachers reporting “serious safety failures at schools.”

Additionally, CTU stated, “Black and Brown parents continue to reject in-person learning.”

The statement comes in the wake of CPS CEO Janice Jackson’s announcement Friday that teachers who failed to show up for work Monday would not be paid.

“We know that a small portion of staff members may choose not to return,” Jackson said, according to NBC5 Chicago. “Those individuals will be deemed absent without leave, and they will not be eligible for pay going forward.”

“We believe we’ve done every single thing within our power to ensure a safe return to school in this situation,” she added.

As Breitbart News reported, Jackson said approximately half of all teachers in the district failed to show up for work last week after the union “pressured” them.

The CEO said 60.2 percent of all school-based staff who were ordered to report to work did so, including 49.7 percent of all teachers and 70 percent of all paraprofessionals.

Jackson added that 60 percent of all staff returning was actually “significant, considering the fact that they were pressured” not to show up by the teachers’ union, which has continued to cite safety issues due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We fully expect teachers to be treated the absolute same way as any other employee,” she said. “If they are in essential functions, we are asking them to come back to work and failure to do so we will follow the progressive discipline process.”

CPS is engaged in a phased reopening plan in which students are scheduled to return to the classroom for the first time since March, when school closures began due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As the Chicago Tribune reported, only 6,500 pre-kindergarten and special education students arrived for in-person instruction Monday. The district’s enrollment is 350,000. About 71,000 K-8 grade students are scheduled to begin hybrid learning, a mix of in-person and remote classes, on February 1.

According to the report, less than 40 percent of parents of preschool through eighth-grade students have opted for in-person learning, and there is no plan for high school students to return to in-person learning at all at this time.

In December, the district endorsed an open letter, which a group of 17 physicians signed at the Chicago Sun-Times, stating that reopening schools is “essential and safe.”

In its reopening plan announcement, CPS stated:

While COVID-19 remains an incredibly serious threat to our community, the public health data in Chicago and across the nation show that schools are rarely a source of COVID-19 transmission. With this new understanding of COVID-19, we must challenge the assumption that school buildings must stay closed and do everything we can to bring students back to school.

The union has questioned if CPS can legally refuse to pay teachers who fail to show up for work, claiming teachers have a right to work in a safe environment and that their decision to remain out is not the equivalent of a strike, the Tribune noted.

However, CPS officials are pointing to the school board’s $100 million investment in virus-related safety, including PPE, air purifiers, and additional custodial staff.

The officials also noted most private schools have remained open since the start of the new academic year without significant virus outbreaks.

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