Can schools safely reopen without teachers vaccinated for COVID-19?
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 via secret electronic ballot.
"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 Thursday, K through fifth grade on March 1, and fifth through eighth grade on March 8.
No date has been set for high school students to return as of yet.
The delegates Monday night also overwhelmingly passed a second motion that was moved from the floor -- that the CTU House of Delegates has no confidence in the mayor and the leadership of the Chicago Public Schools.
"Delegates' vote of no confidence tonight reflects their disgust that it has taken almost a year of effort just to extract the most basic enforceable safety guarantees from a school district with a dismal record of broken promises," the CTU said in a statement.
Students' absence from in-person schooling has some parents concerned.
"My thought is we want what's best for our children," CPS parent Natasha Dunn said. "So, if we think it's safe, then it's safe. I just would hope that now that the deal is on the table teachers can get vaccinated, that we can just move forward and get back into the classroom."
Willie Preston, a local school council and Black Community Collective member, said that for him, students being back in schools is personal.
"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," Preston said. "These communities are not just buildings, these are stabilizing forces inside the Black community."
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Once the voting begins, teachers 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 one in five 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."