CPS officials, including CEO Janice Jackson, have said the district has plans to mitigate the spread of any coronavirus outbreaks in schools. She and other school officials believe it’s time to get everyone back to the classroom.
In a letter sent to families of students on Sunday evening and obtained by CNN, CPS officials said they have met with the union “more than 70 times in an effort to reach an agreement that prevents disruption to student learning and provides families the option to safely return to classrooms.”
School officials said beginning on Monday, “teachers in pre-k through 8 and cluster classrooms who do not report to work in-person — and do not have a valid reason for their absence — will be considered absent without leave. On Tuesday, teachers who are absent without leave will not be authorized to support remote learning until they report in-person as required.”
The union and CPS on Saturday “reached a set of agreements” that were “important steps forward” — but “have made no meaningful progress” since, school officials said in the letter.
“We remain committed to getting a deal done, but CTU leadership’s lack of urgency to find a resolution that meets the needs of our students and staff is deeply disappointing for all of us,” school officials wrote.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot insisted on Sunday that schools could safely reopen, noting that the district had “met or exceeded” the Covid-19 protocols put in place in other school systems to help mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
“We will stay up all night to get a deal done,” Lightfoot said during a news conference, adding that she wants to see a “renewed sense of urgency” from the union.
The union has scheduled a press conference for Sunday evening to address the latest news.
Union, school officials have yet to agree on some issues
But both sides have yet to agree on issues like access to a vaccine prior to beginning in-person work, as well as a public health metric to guide the reopening.
Negotiations were expected to continue on Sunday, but they never happened, and both sides publicly disagreed over why that was.
“The CPS bargaining team was instructed not to attend negotiations today unless our teachers, clinicians, PSRPs, nurses, librarians and other rank-and-file educators were prepared to make major concessions,” it said.
Lightfoot denied that, saying negotiators had been at the bargaining table, waiting to begin.
“We’ve been waiting all day today for in-person negotiations to begin,” she said during the news conference Sunday. “We’ve been waiting on the CTU.”
The union said in a statement that its “officers and attorneys” had “waited for hours for CPS to join them in bargaining” on Sunday.
Lightfoot spoke with CTU President Jesse Sharkey in a “cordial” phone call Sunday afternoon, both CPS and CTU officials said.
CPS CEO: ‘Schools can safely reopen’
On Sunday morning, Jackson told CNN’s Abby Phillip that “there are still some sticking points we’re trying to negotiate with our partners here in the Chicago Teachers Union,” especially around vaccinations.
Jackson said officials have been advocating for teachers to be prioritized for vaccines but also said “schools can safely reopen if the proper mitigation strategies are implemented.”
And while in-school transmission has occurred, researchers said there is little evidence that it contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission.
Officials believe the district’s reopening plan “goes above and beyond both state as well as federal mandates for safely reopening schools,” Jackson said.
“We think now is the time to see a return to in-person instruction for those families that wish to have that option,” she told CNN. “But we are also keeping the district open for remote for families who would like to remain in a remote environment as well.”
CNN’s Claudia Dominguez, Omar Jimenez and Jack Hannah contributed to this report.