Chicago Poised to Start Reopening Schools, Bucking Teacher Union

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Chicago’s public school district, the third-largest in the U.S., is sticking with its plan to start bringing students back to classrooms on Monday, resisting pressure from a teachers’ union that is demanding more safety measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Monday will mark the first time in 10 months that some students will return to Chicago’s schools, starting with about 6,000 in pre-school and special needs programs who are expected to attend, according to Chicago Public Schools estimates. Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Friday stood by the decision to move forward even as infections remain widespread.

“Remote learning, as I’ve said, just isn’t sustainable for everyone,” Lightfoot said during a press conference Friday. “It works fine for some but increasingly we are seeing, not just here in Chicago but nationally, it’s just not working for others.”

Like districts across the U.S., Chicago Public Schools shuttered its 642 buildings in March for about 355,000 students when the pandemic hit and has since grappled with when and how to bring them back. Around 70,000 kindergarten through eighth grade students may return Feb. 1 for in person learning. No plans have been announced for high schoolers.

The Chicago Teachers Union has raised safety concerns for months and on Jan. 4, the first day teachers were required to return to school, only half showed up, though that edged up slightly by Thursday.

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