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Chicago teachers approve agreement to return to class

Chicago teachers approve agreement to return to class

Teachers in Chicago have ratified an agreement that will send educators back to in-person learning after weeks of negotiations with the city's school district. 

The framework, announced Wednesday, quells the likelihood of a full lockout from district officials or strike among union members and could reportedly send some children back to classrooms as early as Thursday. 

Union officials have accused the district of forcing educators to return to unsafe buildings as public health concerns stemming from the coronavirus pandemic remain high. 

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"This agreement represents where we should have started months ago, not where this has landed," said Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey. "That is a stain on the record of their administration. In a humane system, we would have used this as a beginning to build out real equity for school communities that had been starved of resources and equity decades before the pandemic hit." 

The framework allows the creation of school safety committees, which will be tasked with organizing and ensuring that the system meets safety standards and mitigation protocols. The agreement additionally lays out other accommodations like vaccinations, delayed reopening and school closing metrics, among other measures. 

"Be clear: Basic safety shouldn’t even be a negotiation, let alone a privilege – yet it is in Chicago, under this mayor. It’s time for mayoral control of our public schools to end," Sharkey said. "That’s why delegates overwhelmingly passed a vote of no confidence in the mayor and the leadership of the Chicago Public Schools on Monday night." 

The breakthrough comes shortly after Mayor Lori LightfootLori LightfootBodycam footage of officer fatally shooting 13-year-old released Chicago mayor urges calm amid release of shooting video Public health doctors, Chicago mayor to throw first pitch in Cubs opener MORE (D) warned union officials last week that negotiators were "running out of runway" as both sides worked to reach an agreement to return educators to in-person instruction. 

"Yesterday, there were a series of steps backwards that were simply not productive,” Lightfoot said last Thursday. "And as of this morning, we are still waiting, but to be clear, not patiently — not anymore."