Chicago Public Schools Reach ‘Tentative Agreement’ With Teachers


Chicago Public Schools reached a “tentative agreement” with its teachers to resume in-person learning later this week, but union members still need to review its framework to make a deal final.

Progress toward the resumption of in-person classes after more than 10 months of remote learning in the third-largest U.S. district comes as tensions escalate coast to coast between unions fearing the spread of Covid-19, and local officials under pressure to get teachers back into the classroom.

The Chicago Teachers Union’s governing body and its rank-and-file members must review and assess the details before a deal is finalized.

Under the tentative pact, preschool and special needs students and staff are slated to return in-person on Feb. 11. Kindergarten through fifth grade teachers and staff would come back Feb. 22, with students able to join in person on March 1. Sixth through eighth grade teachers and staff would return March 1 with students back March 8. Roughly 67,000 of the more than 207,000 Chicago Public Schools students from those grades and programs have chosen in-person learning.

The school district also has agreed to provide at least 1,500 first vaccine doses per week to employees, with the number of doses increasing as the overall supply increases, according to the framework on the Chicago Teachers Union website. Accommodations for union members asking to work remotely due to vulnerable family members also appears to be wider.

“This entire school year has been incredibly hard,” Lightfoot said during a press conference on Sunday. “We need to give parents options and that’s precisely what this tentative agreement does.”

The tentative pact helps avert a strike, the prospects of which looked like they could increase if Chicago teachers and staff were required to return on Monday didn’t show up.

Lightfoot had said previously that those who don’t show up on Monday would be locked out of school technology required to teach virtually. Locking teachers out of classroom technology is among actions the union has said could spur them to hit picket lines.

While Lightfoot and the district expressed optimism about the tentative deal, the union said it’s reviewing the framework it said it received from the district late Saturday and will use its democratic rank-and-file review.

“We will continue with remote learning until we complete our customary process of rank-and-file review and assessment,” Jesse Sharkey, the union’s president, said in a statement on Sunday. “This framework represents the progress we’ve made at the bargaining table, which, while not everything our school communities deserve, must be evaluated against the uncertainty of a potential lockout.”

The union and school district have bargained for months over how and when to safely return to in-person instruction after moving to remote learning for more than 340,000 students in March.

Coronavirus cases have fallen sharply in Illinois since peaking in November. Some restrictions on businesses were lifted in the Chicago area a week ago as the downward trend continues.

Separately, unions representing San Francisco’s teachers said Sunday they’ve reached a tentative agreement with the district to reopen the city’s public schools, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

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