Chicago teachers have voted to defy the school district’s orders to return to the classroom on Monday over safety concerns stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
Moments after the teachers union’s vote was announced Sunday, Chicago Public Schools said it had agreed to a union request to push the start date for teachers and staff to Wednesday, according to a statement on the CPS verified Twitter account.
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) said in a news release issued Sunday that 86% of its 20,000 members participated in the vote, with 71% voting “in favor of continued remote work.”
CPS and the union will continue bargaining talks on Sunday, according to the union, which said their members’ “action is producing some progress” in negotiations.
“We now agree on far more than we disagree, but our discussions remain ongoing, and additional time is needed to reach a resolution,” the school district said in its statement.
Last week, CPS cautioned that a decision to remain out of schools would be an “illegal” strike, CNN reported.
Educators will continue to work remotely and “if we are locked out by the mayor and CPS, then the choice to strike is theirs, not ours,” the union said Sunday.
Chicago K-8 students are still scheduled to return to classrooms on February 1, according to CPS.
CPS said students in more than 130 private and parochial schools and more than 2,000 early learning centers have been safely attending classes since the fall, and the district must do the same for its students.
“We’ve seen grades, attendance, and enrollment drop significantly for many of our students in recent months, and the impact has been felt most by our Black and Latinx students,” the statement said.
The union’s statement emphasized that its members must remain united to ensure the safety of teachers and students.
“Remember, we are not negotiating class size, benefits or staffing; we are bargaining for minimal risk of COVID-19 infection, and minimal risk of death,” the statement said.
Illinois and Chicago officials announced last week that teachers and school staff will be among those eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine in phase 1b of the rollout, which is set to begin Monday, CNN has reported.
CTU continues to push for a later start date for in-person instruction or a “phase in” approach to returning to schools. “Vaccinations must be connected to staffing,” said the CTU release.