'At long last, CPS has finally reached a tentative agreement' Mayor Lightfoot announces

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The group of Chicago Public School parents who have been eager to send their children back to in-person learning are breathing a sigh of relief Sunday.

Chicago Public Schools calling its latest proposal to the Chicago Teachers Union a "victory"

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools CEO Dr. Jackson announced that CPS has come to an a "tentative agreement" that would bring students and teachers back to in-person learning starting this week.

"At long last, CPS has finally reached a tentative agreement" Lightfoot announced during a press conference Sunday afternoon.

"I believe in science I trust the public health officials that they're making it as safe as possible," said CPS parent Recia Frenn.

Frenn's 6-year-old son is part of a CPS Special Education Program, one she said better serves her son in person.

"His, like, developmental level is low enough that he doesn't have very great visual acuity so he can't really just follow in the screen," she said.

Frenn said given her son's specific needs, remote learning has only stifled the progress he's made over the past couple of years.

"He's at home on a computer but, you know, since he can't answer via Zoom or on the screen, it's like it's also his parents answering for him, you know. And so it's, you know, he's a little bit entertained on the screen but he's not learning," Frenn explained.

Parents, like Frenn, hope the latest proposal between CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union means their kids and teachers will be back in the classroom.

"He's ready to go back. He's not staying connected, he comes home. He comes, I come home from work. He says he's got headaches," she said.

Janet Luszcki said her 5th grade son has been struggling with remote learning and simply just wanted the option for him to go back.

"He misses his friends. He misses his teachers, he misses his bus driver Miss Tanya," Luszcki said.

As part of the tentative resolution, pre-K students are slated to return on Thursday, February 11.

Kindergarten through fifth grade teachers are expected to return to the building on February 22 with students returning on March 1.

Sixth through eight grade students are expected to return to in-person learning on March 8.

"We have taken a momentous step forward in our jury of renewal and recovery," Lightfoot said.

"The victory, I believe, is for our families who need it the most," Jackson added.

There are no plans to cancel CPS' Spring Break, Lightfoot said.

This phased return plan does not include CPS high school students. The district said it is still working with the union to address those plans.

"Pending the ratification of this tentative agreement by the CTU House of Delegates this important milestone marks a moment for each of us to reflect and to heal," Lightfoot said.

Teachers Union officials took to Twitter shortly after Lightfoot's announcement to clarify that there is no agreement, yet.

"What we have is a framework that all of our members must first review and assess, because it is our members who are being asked to return to school buildings in the midst of a global pandemic," union leaders tweeted. "We are a democratic union. 'Hyper-democratic' as some have said. But that's our way. That's the union way...building to building, member to member, community to community organization. Organizing works, but it doesn't work without democracy."

Mere hours before Lightfoot's announcement to say, "We do not yet have an agreement with Chicago Public Schools. The mayor and her team made an offer to our members late last night, which merits further review. We will continue with our democratic process of rank-and-file review throughout the day before any agreement is reached."

A representative with CTU told ABC 7 that its members and House of Delegates met Sunday to discuss the District's proposal and will convene a formal meeting Monday to establish voting procedures. That vote may be put forth on Tuesday.

"Sunday afternoon, the Union held an all-members meeting to discuss the "framework" from CPS followed by a quick House of Delegates meeting a few hours later. The HOD will convene for a special formal meeting tomorrow. The only topic on the agenda is CPS's latest proposal. Chris Geovanis said the plan for tomorrow night will include discussion and then set up voting procedures. A vote could be set forth for Tuesday. Geovanis clarifies again this is a "framework" and only a tentative agreement when it is set forth for a vote. The Union is "proud of its democracy" and it is their way so all members must first review and assess," a spokesperson said.

CPS presented their "final offer" to the teachers union Friday, which was rejected.

The bottom line is the Chicago Teachers Union does not believe CPS is doing enough to get teachers vaccinated, and they are concerned about the plans for what happens if there are COVID-19 outbreaks after students return.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot tweeted up a storm late Friday afternoon, accusing the Chicago Teachers Union of making unreasonable demands when it comes to getting their members vaccinated.

"They want to prioritize teachers over every other resident in our city," Lightfoot said.

Mayor Lightfoot and the city's public health director took to Twitter to blast the Chicago Teachers Union for demanding that 20,000 vaccination doses be prioritized for teachers, with all other Chicagoans being forced to take a back seat.

"Does that seem fair or equitable? It's not and I said no," Lightfoot said. "With variants emerging, we have no time to waste to get the most vulnerable people vaccinated."

"The problem is, we just don't have enough vaccine," Dr. Allison Arwady said. "We get only 5,700 doses a day to stretch across the entire city."

In response, the CTU tweeted Friday night: "This video is theater. We are still at the bargaining table. The mayor and CPS leadership walked away. On Monday, they will lock educators out and cut students off. Eighty percent of the children in our district are staying remote. All will be locked out. All of them."

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There is still no deal to return students to the classrooms after CPS presented what it called it's "last, best, and final offer" to the teachers union.

"We are where we are today, because they have refused to listen to us, all of the things that they count as victories, as a part of their safety plan. Those things did not happen until members voted to take collective action," said Stacy Davis Gates, CTU vice president.

The teachers union rejected the final CPS offer, citing several key concerns. First, in-person learning would only paused if 50% of schools have COVID-19 outbreaks, remote work accommodations were denied to 75% of educators with high-risk household members, and CPS will only commit to vaccinate about 1,500 workers per week.

That offer is up from 1,000 per week, per a source familiar with the proposal. The district also said it is following CDC guidelines for vaccine distribution.

CPS also insisted in its last, best offer that the district has taken steps to ensure every classroom is safe, and that it has spent $100 million to make that happen.

The teachers union held a virtual news conference with elected officials supporting their cause, including many of whom have received political donations from the union.

"It's difficult to understand how we've reached this impasse here today," said State Rep. Lindsay LaPointe, D-19th District. "This is an unnecessary showdown."

We need to make sure that we have a safe return, no games, no drawing lines in the sand," said Sen. Robert Peters, D-13th District, Chicago.

Without a deal, Lightfoot said teachers will be locked out of their remote learning software come Monday.

WATCH: Mayor Lightfoot discusses CPS, CTU negotiations Thursday morning
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Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union still have not agreed to a deal Thursday.

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