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Chicago district, teachers reach tentative deal to return to in-person instruction in phases

Chicago district, teachers reach tentative deal to return to in-person instruction in phases
© Greg Nash

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) reached a tentative deal to return to in-person instruction in phases, the district announced on Sunday. 

After months of tense negotiations and threats of a strike, CTU leaders signed an agreement that would reopen the third-largest district in the country. The union leaders will present the deal to its members who will review the plan for approval.

“Late last night we received a tentative framework from Chicago Public Schools for the resumption of in-person learning,” the union confirmed in a statement

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Under the proposal, pre-K and some special education staff and students will return to schools on Thursday. Kindergarten through fifth grade staff will follow on Feb. 22 before their students return on March 1. Sixth through eighth grade teachers are expected to come back on March 1, with their students joining on March 8.

Chicago Mayor Lori LightfootLori LightfootDaily Caller sues Chicago mayor for limiting interviews to people of color Tulsi Gabbard on Chicago mayor's decision to limit media interviews to people of color: 'Anti-white racism' So wrong: Chicago mayor declares she will only grant interviews to 'journalists of color' MORE (D) labeled the agreement “an important milestone” for the city and its residents to ensure safety and “that everyone’s lived experiences are respected and heard.” 

“This has been a lengthy and challenging negotiation, and we know it has weighed heavily on everyone in our school community,” CPS CEO Janice Jackson said in a statement. “Our agreement is a victory for the students and families who need more than remote learning can provide, and it guarantees staff the protections and resources needed to safely return to the classroom."

Within the agreement, the district committed to working with Walgreens and the Chicago Department of Public Health to vaccinate pre-K and special education staff who have a medically vulnerable household member starting this week. Staff who agree to the sped-up vaccination process have to agree to return to school two weeks after getting the first dose.

CPS will start its own vaccination sites later this month, solely for CPS staff, aiming to give shots to 1,500 people per week.  

The district also established new rules for pausing and restarting in-person learning. 

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The tentative agreement comes after a week of contention between the city’s district and the teachers union, as the mayor said Chicago would no longer wait on the union because “we are out of runway” after “80 plus meetings.”

Last month, the teachers union had voted to defy CPS’s plans to reopen in-person learning out of coronavirus safety concerns. 

Chicago has recorded more than 231,000 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, according to city data. The average seven-day positivity rate slipped below 5 percent for the first time since October last week.