CTU votes 'overwhelmingly' in favor for continued remote learning amid COVID-19

'Tomorrow, we choose to work safely and remotely - together,' CTU announces amid ongoing dispute with city

ByDiane Pathieu, John Garcia, and ABC 7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Monday, January 25, 2021
CPS battle over return in-person learning rages on
The Chicago Teachers Union overwhelmingly voted to keep teachers out of schools as COVID-19 continues, but some CPS parents said their kids need to get back into class.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Public School teachers and staff were set to return to in-person learning Monday, but over the weekend, the Chicago Teachers Union voted to continue remote learning.

The Chicago Teachers Union members voted Sunday to authorize all rank-and-file educators in Chicago Public Schools to conduct remote work only.

With 86% voter participation, 71% voted in favor of continued remote work starting Monday, Jan. 25, according to a CTU statement. This is also the first day the Board of Education requires educators in kindergarten through 8th grade to appear in person.

The Chicago Teachers Union voted in favor of remote learning and plans to delay Feb. 1 reopening.

"There's no doubt we all want to return to in-person instruction. The issue is CPS' current unpreparedness for a return to in-person instruction, and the clear and present danger that poses to the health of our families and school communities," the CTU statement said.

The district pushed back the start date to Wednesday.

In-person learning has been taking place for Pre-K and Special Ed students since January 11.

But CPS parents and students both continue to push for their students to return to the classroom. A group, small in numbers but saying they represent a majority of CPS students mostly from African American and Latinx populations, gathered Monday to ask students to go back to class.

"It's hard to make relationships with teachers and friends behind a screen," said Elizabeth Preston, 7th grade CPS student.

Preston's father and other parents said minority students are already behind some of their white counterparts, and the longer they are on remote learning the further behind they are falling. They said getting CPS and CTU to come to a resolution is critical to making sure their kids can catch up.

K through 8th grade students are scheduled to return February 1.

RELATED: Some CPS parents urge CTU to allow members to return for in-person learning

School officials said it's time for teachers to return to the classroom and to help struggling students.

"We've seen grades, attendance, and enrollment drop significantly for many of our students in recent months, and the impact has been felt most by our Black and Latinx students," the district said in a statement.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she believes the two sides are making progress on an agreement for teachers to return. CPS teachers are all eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine as of Monday, but they are not scheduled to begin getting it until February.

The roughly 355,000-student district, which turned to full-time online instruction last March because of the pandemic, has gradually welcomed students back. Thousands of pre-kindergarten and special education resumed in-person learning earlier this month and teachers who didn't return to their classrooms were punished.

But in a Monday morning virtual press conference, CTU maintained the want to return to the classroom if and when they feel it's safe.

"We really need to be mindful at this moment in time of how we're moving forward," said Dawn Kelly, a special education teacher. "All we're asking for is our employer to meet us partway to come to the table with our union leaders and negotiate negotiate a safe return for all staff members and for students."

Many CPS parents told ABC7 that they feel caught in between.

Some CPS parents are urging the Chicago Teachers Union to allow their members to come back for elementary students, who have the option of returning for in-person learning on Febru

They want to support their teachers, but said their children are at a severe disadvantage not being in class- especially in the Black and Latinx communities.

A group of parents plan to rally Monday afternoon outside of an Elementary School in Englewood to voice their concerns.

"For the Black and Hispanic families it's hit so much harder, COVID is so much greater," said Meredith Kroot, a rally organizer and CPS parent.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.