CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Public Schools officials said they remain confident in plans to start bringing students back next Monday.
The Chicago Teacher's Union has argued that returning to in-person learning is not safe, and premature with the uncertainty of a potential post-holiday spike in COVID-19 cases.
Sarah Sachen, a parent of two CPS students who are diverse learners, gave up on e-learning.
"I don't know the last time I signed my 7-year-old in because it's been that difficult and she's that far behind," Sachen said.
Both CPS and CTU officials held news conferences Tuesday morning to discuss their thoughts on returning to the classroom.
CPS' CEO Janice Jackson said they have followed all health recommendations by experts, she even tweeted out photos and said they were ready to safely welcome students back next week.
CPS said teachers who refused to return to the school buildings have been put on notice.
School officials said they are preparing to have substitutes ready to go in the event of noncompliance.
In-person learning is scheduled to start next Monday, January 11th for pre-K and moderate to intensive "cluster" programs.
In a Tuesday morning press conference CPS officials said they have sought the advice of health experts and feel confidence that the buildings are safe enough for staff and students to return.
Sachen felt from the beginning of the school year remote learning was not working for her younger children. She is confident CPS has a safe plan in place for students and teachers to return to class, but not all teachers agree.
Some CPS teachers were supposed to return to their classrooms yesterday, but over half did not show up, according to district officials.
CPS CEO Janice Jackson said that although no one was disciplined so far, that may not be the case moving forward.
She said the district will continue to remind individuals of their policy and review on a case by case basis.
"Individuals who are refusing to report to work and who will be considered absent without leave will face progressive discipline per CPS policy," Jackson said.
CTU has fought district plans to return for months and is not convinced CPS has done everything it can to provide a safe environment. The teachers union stood by their decision to stay out of classrooms, and said during a virtual press conference early Tuesday morning that they believe the reopening plan endangers both students and staff.
CTU President Jesse Sharkey said the union is prepared to fight back.
"Delay the start of school, and let the vaccination proceed, and then figure out a way to extend school with a robust summer program," Sharkey said.
Over 30 aldermen sent a letter to the mayor saying they are deeply concerned about CPS' reopening plans. Jackson responded to the aldermen's letters.
"Why the concern now? Do they care more about the lives of CPS teachers than the Catholic school teachers that have been going to school since August," Jackson said.
Jackson said CPS' safety plan is more robust than Catholic schools. The district is relying on an in-depth study showing low rates of transmission at private and parochial schools.
"If a Catholic school in my area can figure it out, why can't CPS?" Sachen asked.
More students are slated to return next month too: kindergarten through 8th grade students will come back to class February 1. CTU will continue to fight the plans to return and even mentioned a possible strike vote.