Chicago public schools canceled classes Wednesday and face an uncertain future after nearly three-quarters of the Chicago Teachers Union voted to revert to remote learning because of a coronavirus surge, prompting a standoff with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and school administrators who want students to remain in the classroom.
School buildings will remain open for essential services, including meals, but students who arrive won’t have in-person classes.
“I want to assure you that I am doing everything in my power to keep our students in school, where they belong, learning,” Ms. Lightfoot, a Democrat, tweeted. “But what we cannot accept is unilateral action to shut down the entire district, depriving hundreds of thousands of students of the safe, in-person schooling environment they need.”
The mayor and Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez are expected to address the next steps for parents on Wednesday after 73% of the union’s 25,000-plus members voted Tuesday night voted to log in remotely until Jan. 18 unless safety demands were met, including more testing, according to WBEZ Chicago.
“Let us be clear. The educators of this city want to be in their classrooms with their students. We believe that our city’s classrooms are where our students should be. Regrettably, the Mayor and her CPS leadership have put the safety and vibrancy of our students and their educators in jeopardy,” the teachers’ union said.
Mr. Martinez said teachers who do not show up in person will not be paid.
The standoff puts Chicago, which has the third-largest school district in the country, at the heart of the debate around in-person learning amid the omicron-driven surge of the coronavirus this winter. Leaders in other places are fending off calls for in-person learning amid the omicron surge.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams defended his decision to keep kids in the classroom, citing a surge in testing and efforts to fill staffing shortages when they occur.
“I’m not going to allow the hysteria to prevent the future of my children receiving a quality education,” the Democrat said Tuesday on CNN.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey fired a warning shot at the start of the week, saying unions that float remote learning plans won’t succeed.
“Once again, teachers unions are playing political games with no regard for the social and emotional impact on our kids,” the Republican governor tweeted. “Parents shouldn’t stand for it — and will remember these antics at the ballot box. And at the state level, we’ll be working to ensure in-person learning continues. From recruiting more substitute teachers, to ensuring that if a student is turned away for even one day of in-person learning, parents have choice and the resources to take their child to a school that better meets their needs.”
At the White House, President Biden is pushing to keep kids in the classroom.
“We have no reason to think at this point that omicron is worse for children than previous variants,” he said. “We know that our kids can be safe when in school, by the way. That’s why I believe schools should remain open.”
For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.