CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Public Schools has released details and a schedule for their plan to bring some students back for in-person learning starting in January.
The first group of staff for pre-K and cluster programs will return on Jan. 4. Students enrolled in pre-K and moderate and intensive cluster programs resume in-person learning on Jan. 11.
Staff returns for grades K-8 on Jan. 25, and in-person learning with a hybrid model for students in grades K-8 resumes on Feb 1.
"We've been working closely with the Chicago Department of Public Health to ensure all necessary measures are taken and school will look and feel very different," said Erik Olson, principal of Hamline Elementary in an informational video produced by the district.
Top doctors from the Chicago area also weighed in on the safety and importance of getting children back in the classroom in an open letter published in the Chicago Sun-Times.
But the Chicago Teachers Union does not believe CPS has done enough to make schools safe. Among their top concerns is that there isn't proper ventilation.
"We have had over 700 incidences of exposure and infection at the Chicago Public Schools without students being in attendance," said CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates. "That, to me, is a number that is way too high. That to me is the number that says that safety is already not being practiced."
The teachers union said it is concerned that returning students to the classroom at this point in the pandemic, when widespread vaccinations are not available, could lead to another surge in the pandemic.
But a group of 17 Chicago area doctors signed an open letter in support of the district's plan, saying in part, "The educational, psychological and financial hardships of remote learning have had serious consequences for our children and their families," and added that, "in-school spread of COVID-19 is rare when proper precautions are taken."
The school district said 83.3% of all employees are expected to return on Jan. 4 for in-person learning. Leave or accommodation to remain remote was granted for 12.35 of CPS employees. Additionally, 4.4% of requests for leave or accommodations to remain remote are still pending.
CPS said that every person with an American with Disabilities Act accommodation, which applied to any employee with an underlying health condition listed on the CDC's website, was granted an accommodation to work from home. A total of 18.7% of employees who live with someone who has a serious medical condition were given accommodations to work from home, and 11.5% of those requesting to remain at home due to childcare accommodations had their requests granted.
The school district said any staff member who shares a home with someone with a high-risk medical condition but were not given an accommodation to work from home will be able to get a weekly COVID-19 test.
Additionally, all school staff returning in-person will be given monthly COVID-19 tests as part of the district's testing program.
The district only expects about 37% of eligible students to return to in-person classes, officials said earlier in December.
CPS data shows a disproportionate number of students expected to return are white. About 23% are white, 30% are Black, nearly 39% are Latino and about 4% are Asian. Overall student enrollment in the district is nearly 11% white, about 36% Black, nearly 47% Latino and about 4% Asian, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Schools CEO Janice Jackson said about 77,000 of the roughly 208,000 eligible students in pre-kindergarten through 8th grade and in special education planned to return. A date for high school students hasn't been set.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.