CHICAGO (CBS) Talks were underway Wednesday afternoon between the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union after the CPS canceled classes for the day after a vote by the CTU to go for virtual learning in the middle of a COVID-19 increase.
As CBS 2 political investigator Dana Kozlov reported, students and parents at home are waiting to be told what Thursday brings.
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Union leaders said they were set to meet with the district at 13:30 Wednesday, potentially to reach some sort of agreement. But there was no update late Wednesday on how the negotiations went, or whether they were still going on from 6 p.m.
Also, CPS CEO Pedro Martinez met with principals Wednesday afternoon to discuss what might happen next.
But as of late Wednesday afternoon, there was no indication that students would soon be back in Chicago schools.
Hundreds of teachers from Chicago Public Schools formed a caravan with their cars and honked with their horns in Union Park after a day outside the classroom. The signs on their windshields said, “Do not lock us out, let’s teach.”
The caravan later arrived at City Hall.
Just three days after the winter break, and all Chicago Public Schools are again without students in the classrooms. The lights went on in CPS schools on Wednesday, but that did not mean much – once CPS teachers voted to work only remotely, the district manager did exactly what he said he would do. He canceled all hours.
“Right now it’s putting us in danger of going to school,” said Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey.
This is the first day in what the school principal calls a walkout, while the Chicago Teachers Union said its members were willing to work externally – only.
“This situation is not one we like,” Sharkey said. “We would rather be in our classes and teach. We want personal school open. “
Sharkey said 73 percent of the 20,000 teachers who submitted electronic ballots on Tuesday voted to go the distance because of rising COVID-19 cases. In a post-vote letter, Sharkey told members they will return in person when the COVID increase “significantly decreases” or the union reaches an agreement with the district that includes a student test plan.
“Run a test-to-return program that they have in other cities, and when you get people back, get an effective screening test,” Sharkey said.
Otherwise, the union said, teachers will be out until Jan. 18, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the union will not get that call.
“We asked the CTU management – take a moment, review the plan, get back to us with an answer at the negotiating table, delay the vote – do not make an illegal work stoppage,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday night. “And to that was the answer: ‘No, sorry, we’re moving on.’
Kozlov asked labor lawyer Keri-Lyn Krafthefer how she viewed the situation from an employment law perspective.
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“Well, it really comes down to who has the ability to decide how and where services are to be provided, and that’s an inherent management right,” Krafthefer said.
Some teachers on Wednesday posted pictures of themselves trying to work remotely but found themselves locked out of the system – something that CEO Martinez warned would happen to teachers who did not report in person.
Teachers’ salaries were cut along with remote access.
Krafthefer said the city could go to court to get the teachers back in person.
“It would be a mandatory injunction because it would try to force teachers to return to work quickly,” she said.
A source told Kozlov that the district is considering this option.
“If the mayor needs to drag us to court, you know, to try to force us to do what she wants, we’ll go to court and point out that we’re doing what we think is necessary.” said Sharkey.
Meanwhile, 300,000 CPS students are left in limbo.
“We want to get a negotiated deal,” Sharkey said.
A spokeswoman for CTU said she believes teachers will also be required to test for the virus unless they opt out – if such a test agreement is reached.
Teachers also threatened not to return to work at schools last spring, but negotiated a safety plan to return to schools. That deal expired in late August, and the union said the school board did not feel it was necessary to negotiate another.
Mayor Lightfoot said city officials have been talking to the union for several months, but the bottom line is that no current security agreement exists.
Tuesday night, Martinez said he would like more information on what the rest of the week looks like for CPS students. We were still waiting for that plan late Wednesday.
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Kl. At 6:45 p.m., a press conference is scheduled with Martinez, Mayor Lightfoot, and Chicago Department of Public Health Director Dr. Allison Arwady.