By Paula Shelton, Contributing Writer, Chicago Defender
The Chicago Teachers Union is reviewing the framework for a deal that could potentially have students and staff back in the classroom by the end of the week. After some very contentious bargaining sessions, Chicago Public Schools and CTU now have a possible deal on the table. Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the two organizations had come to a tentative agreement Sunday afternoon but CTU delegates must still vote to approve the agreement.
A vote yes from union delegates would avoid a looming strike, easing the fears of many CPS parents. CTU presented the framework to its members in an all-member meeting Sunday afternoon before the union delegates reconvene to go over the agreement in its entirety in preparation for a vote. CTU members will review the framework within their perspective schools on Monday and vote themselves to either accept or reject the agreement.
During Sunday’s announcement, Mayor Lightfoot called it “very good news” praising Jesse Sharkey, CTU President for his assistance in reaching the tentative agreement. Under the new return to in-person learning framework, PreK staff and students would return to the classroom on February 11th. K-5 staff would return on February 22nd with students returning on March 1st, and sixth-eighth grade staff on March 1st with students returning on March 8th.
It was Monday, January 25th when CTU urged its members to stay home and continue teaching remotely. The union was at odds with Chicago Public Schools over what they called a” rushed” return to in-person learning. They were concerned about the readiness of school facilities, and the lack of accommodations provided its members with pre-existing conditions. Vaccinations, PPE, and safety metrics should the number of positive Covid-19 cases start to rise were also a huge concern of the union and caused strife during negotiations between the union, the mayor, and CPS officials.
Though Mayor Lightfoot stated she presented the union with her “last best and final offer” Friday the two organizations returned to the bargaining table on Saturday with negotiations lasting until 11 pm. Some CPS agreed-upon measures under the new framework are staggering the return of staff and students, at least 1,500 vaccination doses for staff starting with those returning in person on or after February 8th, telework accommodations for staff at medical risk including those with family members at medical risk, testing for staff and students, and PPE.
Monday evening would be the soonest CTU and its members could conduct a vote but Mayor Lightfoot seemed confident when speaking with reporters Sunday afternoon saying, “We can now see light at the end of this long, dark tunnel that we have been in since COVID-19 first came to our shores.”
Paula J. Shelton is a freelance writer and journalist based in Chicago. Find her on social @beboldshineon.
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