CPS, CTU continue negotiations over high school return to classroom

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Public Schools high schoolers are supposed to return to the classroom next week.

But teachers may refuse to work in-person Wednesday if there's no deal between the district and the union.

"We're not going in tomorrow," said CTU president Jesse Sharkey. "We're not going into the buildings. We'll still teach, but we're not going into the buildings to do it, unless we have a reopening agreement."

CPS sent a letter to parents Monday, saying it is "firmly committed" to reopening high schools next week, but once again last-minute negotiations with the teachers union threaten to derail that goal.

The Chicago Teachers Union has said they will not return Wednesday unless agreement has been reached in several areas.

Scheduling is a big issue, particularly in schools that have a large number of students returning. Union officials want those schools to split into one-day-a-week cohorts.

Schools with fewer than 100 students returning are set to go back to four days a week in person. But disagreements remain about how to handle schools where large numbers of students have chosen to go back

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"High school is social," said CTU VP Stacy Davis Gates. "Let's be very clear that the UK variant is here in Chicago. The greatest number of our students returning will return on the north side of Chicago, which by the way is the space in our city that is experiencing the surge in cases."

CPS meanwhile in a letter to parents saying negotiations continue: "Over the weekend, we have been engaged in productive discussions with CTU leadership to ensure a smooth transition back for our students and staff. Those discussions will continue tomorrow, and we are working to reach an agreement as soon as possible.

"Over the weekend we made progress on a number of areas and have general alignment on topics including the scheduling models schools will use and safety protocols to keep students and staff safe in high school buildings. We have also agreed that high school staff will be able to work on Wednesdays, which is a remote day for all students, and we will work to support vaccinations for students when they are eligible and doses are available."

Jackie Herigodt's daughter Bella is a senior at Lincoln Park High School

"I would love it because this is her senior year, but not to jeopardize her health," she said. "It's not worth it. If she can get vaccinated and it was safe and everybody else is safe than yeah absolutely I want her to go back to school. I want her to have that experience."

A recent survey conducted by CPS shows only 44% of high school parents want their children to return to in-person learning. A group of those who do however is planning a rally here at the CTU headquarters later Tuesday afternoon.
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