• The Chicago Teachers Union wants to implement a test-to-return policy in CPS
  • Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the CTU was holding children’s learning 'hostage'
  • Other U.S. schools also shifted to remote learning this week

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced that classes are suspended again Friday as the district clashes with the teachers union over COVID-19 safety measures that the union wants to be stricter amid a surge in coronavirus cases across the country and around the world.

Pedro Martinez, the director of CPS, said in a late Thursday statement that parents “should not plan to send your child to school unless your child’s principal tells you that students can come to school for in-person activities” for Friday. Martinez said the district is “working tirelessly to get everyone back in class every day.” He clarified that “a small number of schools” may allow for in-person classes if there are adequate staff members reporting for work Friday.

Friday’s no classes call marked the third consecutive day that CPS canceled classes as the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) demands “staff, students, vendors, and volunteers” to provide a negative COVID-19 PCR test before attending in-person learning unless parents decide to opt out of the suggested policy.

CTU members voted to refuse reporting for in-person work Tuesday, which prompted the CPS to cancel classes Wednesday, the Chicago Tribune reported. The union said 73% of its members voted on switching to remote work over concerns that schools do not have adequate COVID-19 policies in place to prevent transmissions. The union added that it will only report for in-person learning if the city signs an agreement on “conditions of return” or if cases in the area see a substantial downtrend.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot warned late Tuesday that teachers who don’t report to work Wednesday will be put on a no-pay status. “There is no basis in the data, the science or common sense for us to shut an entire system down when we can surgically do this at a school level,” the mayor said.

During a Wednesday media briefing, Lightfoot also said he “will not allow [the Chicago Teachers Union] to take our children hostage,” arguing that it was “morally wrong” to demand that parents inform schools if they want their kids to get tested or not, Fox News reported.

Martinez, on the other hand, said CPS will “continue working with CTU to resolve this situation and will provide you with ongoing updates as the week continues.”

Other U.S. schools have also shifted to remote learning amid a surge in COVID-19 cases across the country, driven by the Omicron variant, NBC News reported.

Earlier this week, the Atlanta Public Schools said it will only hold virtual classes through Friday, while Milwaukee Public Schools said it is targeting a return to in-person learning next week after it started remote learning Tuesday. Newark’s school district in New Jersey is expecting to retain virtual learning until Jan. 14.

According to data from the city’s coronavirus dashboard, Chicago has logged a total of 453,224 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic started. The current daily average for deaths is high at 12, and the daily average also saw an 18% increase from the previous week. Hospitalizations in the city increased by 3% compared to the prior week, and the positivity rate spiked to 22.7% from last week’s average of 15.3%.

Representational Image Credit: Pixabay