Chicago Teachers Union considering plan to reopen more CPS classrooms; rank-and-file teachers to vote Tuesday

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates voted Monday night to send a tentative agreement with Chicago Public Schools on to their full rank-and-file membership for a vote.

CTU officials said union members will begin voting yes or no Tuesday night on the proposed framework for teachers, students and staff to return to the classroom. Results will be known by Wednesday.

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Twenty-five thousand Chicago Public School teachers will be asked whether the agreement struck between their union and the mayor is good enough for them to return to in-person learning.

"Our members have to read it, discuss, and ultimately, make a decision as to what is going to happen next," CTU President Jesse Sharkey said.

If approved, students, teachers and staff will have a staggered return to their physical classrooms.

Pre-K and Cluster students will return February 11, K through 5th grade on March 1st, and, 5th through 8 grade on March 8.

No date has been set for high school students to return as of yet.

"We know that we have children literally sleeping away the most pivotal times of their lives when they should be getting educated, I'm scared to death of that," said Willie Preston, a CPS parent.

Willie Preston, a local school council and Black Community Collective member said that for him, students being back in schools is personal.

"These communities are not just buildings, these are stabilizing forces inside the Black community," Preston said.

Darlene O'Banner, also a member of her local student council, is the primary caregiver of two young CPS students. While she is waiting to get the vaccine to send her kids back, she too says it is time.

"Let's move work together and pull the kids ahead of, pull them on track where they supposed to be," O'Banner said.

Once the voting begins, teachers will have anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to make their choice. If approved, those returning first will have priority access to available vaccines that are being set aside for teachers.

"Our young people and our students have been deeply impacted by COVID-19.not just in their educational activity, but also in terms of their social, emotional learning," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

Only 1 in 5 eligible students chose to return to the classroom when initially offered the opportunity. Among them was 6-year-old Layla Scott, a first-grade cluster student at Thorpe Elementary. Layla's mother Ebonie Davis is now preparing to send both her and her twin sister Leah - who was initially set to remain virtual - back.

"I'm hopeful that there isn't a sudden stop again," Davis said. "Now we're going back online. Now there was a breach in the agreement. You know, anything can happen. I'm just hopeful."

If the framework is approved on Wednesday, that will mean CPS's phased reopening plan will have pre-K and Cluster teachers and students back in classrooms on Thursday.
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