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CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago school leaders canceled class a fourth day in the nation’s third-largest district as negotiations with the teachers’ union over remote learning and other COVID-19 safety protocols failed to produce an agreement over the weekend.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez said in a joint statement Sunday evening that there wasn’t “sufficient progress” in talks to resume in-person classes Monday, extending disruptions into a second school week. But they vowed negotiations would continue “through the night.”
Disputed issues included testing and metrics to close schools. The Chicago Teachers Union wants the option to revert to districtwide remote instruction, and most members have refused to teach in-person until there’s an agreement, or the latest COVID-19 spike subsides. But Chicago leaders reject districtwide remote learning, saying it’s detrimental to students and schools are safe. Instead, Chicago opted to cancel classes as a whole two days after students returned from winter break.
Chicago faces the same pandemic issues as other districts nationwide, with more reverting to remote learning as infections soar and staff members are sidelined. But the situation in union-friendly Chicago has been amplified in a labor dispute that’s familiar to families in the mostly low-income Black and Latino district who have seen disruptions during a similar safety protocol fight last year, a 2019 strike and a one-day work stoppage in 2016.
The announcement for the roughly 350,000-student district came as the principals of some schools had already notified families their schools would be closed for instruction Monday because of staffing shortages.
The tone of Lightfoot and Martinez’s Sunday evening statement suggested more progress than a day earlier when shortly after the union made its latest offer public, they said, “CTU leadership, you’re not listening” and vowed not to “relent.” The offer she rejected included teachers reporting to schools Monday to distribute laptops for remote learning to temporarily start Wednesday. Both sides have filed complaints to a state labor board.
Union leaders have accused Lightfoot of bullying, saying they agree that in-person instruction is better, but the pandemic is forcing difficult decisions. Several district families, represented by the conservative Liberty Justice Center in Chicago, filed a lawsuit in Cook County over the closures last week, while more than 5,000 others have signed a petition urging a return to in-person instruction.