Story at a glance
- The CTU voted to remain remote as city officials plan to reopen schools on Feb. 1.
- Chicago Public Schools may consider this a strike.
Ahead of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) planning to reopen for in-person learning on Feb. 1, members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) voted Sunday to continue working remotely due to a lack of public health protocols implemented in school reopening plans.
The lack of school personnel able to receive vaccinations is a chief concern, as well as frustrations over proper PPE resources to further safeguard potentially vulnerable educators and staff.
“CPS failed to arrange for vaccinations for 1,500 class 1(a) CPS health professionals — school nurses, LPNs, speech pathologists, physical therapists and more — who were eligible to begin being vaccinated in December,” CTU officials said in a press release. “While CPS has at last said it will move to vaccinate school staff, perhaps beginning in mid-February, it has refused to allow workers to be vaccinated before they’re forced back into school buildings that have struggled with even the most basic safety needs, from adequate masks and hand sanitizer to ventilation adequate to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
The announcement also noted that just roughly 19 percent of eligible students are returning to classrooms as of Jan. 11, with most Black and brown students still learning remotely.
Since the CTU announcement, city officials reportedly said that they will regard CTU members’ refusal to reenter classrooms as a strike, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
CTU members, however, claim that they will continue to work, just not in physical school buildings.
About 25,000 rank-and-file CTU teachers and educational support staff voted, with 71 percent electing to remain at home.
A component of the CPS and Chicago city government’s vaccination plan is to deploy vaccine doses to CPS educators beginning in mid-February. Officials at CPS note, however, that the amount of COVID-19 vaccine doses available is “contingent upon federal vaccine allocations.”
The reopening plan and teacher refusal comes as Chicago is showing improving COVID-19 metrics. According to city data, the currently weekly testing positivity rate stands at 7.2 percent, a drop from the 8.6 percent seen the previous week.
Confirmed new cases are also down by 24 percent in week-over-week data, and fatal outcomes associated with COVID-19 cases are also down by 8 percent.
Regardless, union members are concerned about exposing themselves, colleagues and loved ones who have preexisting conditions that could exacerbate a COVID-19 infection.
Per the CTU announcement, members voted to continue working remotely until April, when access to vaccines will hopefully be greater.