After a week-long standoff between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union, school resumed early Wednesday morning for in-person learning amid agreed Covid-19 safety measures.
Teaching for the nation’s third-largest school system—a student district of 330,000—ceased on January 4 and classes were canceled for five days.
According to CNN, on the last day students were in classrooms, Chicago Public Schools reported a record high Covid cases for the academic year—422 new cases among students and 271 new cases among adults.
With rising concerns about in-person versus virtual school due to the omicron-fueled COVID-19 surge, the CTU pushed for online classes. The CPU described virtual learning as disastrous for students and flatly rejected it. The strike ensued when teachers were locked out of online platforms.
Finally, the city and the teachers union negotiated a tentative agreement late Monday. Voting for the proposed agreement began late Tuesday afternoon and continued into Wednesday morning.
According to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the tentative agreement includes enhanced Covid-19 testing in schools and will extend through the rest of the school year. The district promised KN95 masks for all students and staff; incentives for substitute teachers; unpaid leave of absence accommodations for teachers and staff; and school-based contact tracing teams.
The districts rejected union calls for the entire district to flip to remote learning if the city’s Covid-19 positivity rate increases for seven consecutive days. The district agreed to set a school-by-school metric for when schools would flip to full remote learning, solely depending upon staff and or student absences. Both sides agreed that if 30% of teachers are absent for two days in a row or if 40% of students are in quarantine at a particular school, those buildings will close for at least five days.
Coincidentally enough, before the schools returned in person on Wednesday morning, Lightfoot announced on twitter that she had tested positive for Covid-19.
Between Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Teachers Union, and Chicago parents at odds, there is one vital component missing in the conversation: the students. Tired of being left out of CPS Covid-19 safety discussions, the students have rallied together for a seat at the table. An organization of allied, radical CPS high schoolers called Chi-RADS on Twitter, announced a walkout, scheduled for Friday.
The organization has a list of six demands, addressed to Mayor Lightfoot, Dr. Allison Arwady of the Chicago Department of Public Health, and Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Pedro Martinez, including, “publicly acknowledge your mistakes and apologize for statements made about members of the Chicago Teachers Union.”
With Chicago students in good company with the Brooklyn students that staged a walkout Wednesday morning, the protests are a heartwarming reminder that the kids are alright.