A “small number” of Chicago schools remained open Friday despite districtwide closures amid negotiations between the district and Chicago Teachers Union (CTU).
The Chicago Public School (CPS) system, while pushing for teachers to show up to school in-person, canceled all classes on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for some 340,000 students and locked teachers out of their online platform amid negotiations with the CTU.
Union leaders voted in favor of remote learning until COVID-19 cases “substantially subside” or until they reach an agreement with Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
“Classes will remain canceled for all CPS students starting tomorrow, Friday, January 7, as we continue working to get CTU staff back in our buildings. However, a small number of schools MAY be able to offer in-person activities for students if enough staff are reporting to work,” CPS said in a Thursday statement. “You SHOULD NOT plan to send your child to school, unless your child’s principal tells you that students can come in for in-person activities.”
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CPS did not say exactly which schools were open for in-person activity Friday.
The school district offered in-person meals and high school sports practices Friday, as well as “Safe Haven” sites while classes were canceled.
CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said earlier this week that closures should occur only on a school-by-school basis, and that those with at least 60% of staff would remain open. The Chicago Principals & Administrators Association (CPAA), however, said Thursday that school closures are a”districtwide crisis and we need a districtwide strategy.”
“It should not be an ad hoc reactionary response that creates inequities that are predictable among social and economic lines,” the CPAA said in a statement. “Instead, it feels as if the district’s approach was more focused on eroding the trust we’ve worked so hard to develop by pitting schools, principals, parents, and staff against each other than on actually providing safety and support for students and communities.”
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Chicago principals were “blindsided” by news that some schools could stay open for in-person activities after CPS said all schools would be closed Thursday and Friday, CPAA said.
The group’s statement continued: “As school principals, we have been doing what seems like impossible work and holding it together for our students, parents, and staff members who are already exhausted. … To tell principals schools would be closed this week, and then blindside us just a few hours later with a public statement that principals will decide to either open or close our schools on Friday is offensive and unsafe.”
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The union is demanding that Mayor Lori Lightfoot sign an agreement on “conditions of return,” including “robust testing, sufficient staffing and subs, and a school-level metric to trigger a pause in in-person instruction.” CPS is demanding teachers return to their classrooms.
More than 13% of total CPS staff, including 16% of CTU substitutes and 23% of non-CTU teachers showed up to school on Thursday, according to CPS.
Chicago’s daily COVID-19 case count rose to nearly 5,000 on Thursday, or approximately 185 cases per 100,000 people. Deaths, however, remain at 11 per day, or 0.4 per 100,000 people. CPS previously told Fox News that 91% of CPS staff are vaccinated against the virus.
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President Biden, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and national health organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics are pushing to keep schools open.