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Return of elementary teachers in Chicago delayed until Wednesday as talks continue

Jan. 24, 2021
The school system wants K-8 teachers and staff to return to school buildings, but the teachers union says it wants better health and safety protections.

The Chicago public school system has delayed the return of K-8 teachers and staff to classrooms until Wednesday, Jan. 27, as administrators continue to negotiate with the teachers union about the measures taken to protect the health and safety of staff and students.

"We now agree on far more than we disagree, but our discussions remain ongoing, and additional time is needed to reach a resolution," Chicago Schools CEO Janice Jackson and Chief Education Officer LaTanya D. McDade said Sunday in a letter to the community.

However, the Chicago Teachers Union disputed the district's characterization that the union agreed to the delay.

"This is unequivocally false," the union said in a Tweet. The district "unilaterally made the decision to move the return date for K-8 teachers back to Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. We currently have no agreement with the district on any terms."

The return date for students in grades K-8 still is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 1. The district leaders say their goal is to reach an agreement with the teachers union "as soon as possible to ensure tens of thousands of additional students have the opportunity to safely return to our classrooms."

The letter from the district states that is pursuing a return to in-person instruction for elementary age students 'because local, state and federal health officials have made it clear that schools can operate safely with proper mitigations. Working closely with our partners at the Chicago Department of Public Health, we have developed a comprehensive health and safety plan that meets and exceeds the recommended mitigations, and we have spared no expense — investing over $100 million — to make this plan a reality."

Before the district's announcement, elementary teachers and staff had been scheduled to return to classrooms on Monday.

The union announced earlier Sunday that its members voted to authorize all rank-and-file educators in Chicago schools to conduct remote work only and not return to classrooms. It said 71% of voting members favored a continuation of remote work.

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