The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) failed to reach an agreement around reopening physical school buildings by a Wednesday deadline.
As a result, CTU told members to continue working from home as the potential of a work stoppage mounted.
The two sides bought more negotiating time and education will continue at a distance for the remainder of this week, an attempt by CPS to cut off remote teaching and a forced return to the classroom could cause picket lines to pop up across the city according to an email CTU sent to its membership Tuesday night.
The move to full remote learning moves special education and preschool students back to online classrooms after returning to in person learning earlier in January.
A move by CPS to lock teachers out of virtual learning accounts, however, would result in education completely shutting down for all students in the CPS system. With CTU and its members unwilling to go back into the classroom under current conditions they feel are unsafe, such a lock out would, in effect, trigger a teachers strike.
The CTU and its members are concerned that reopening school buildings at this point would put its members and the larger Chicago community in danger in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. A concern made all the more real by the news of several new strains of COVID-19 appear to be more contagious and more likely in infect children than the strain first identified in late 2019. Some indications in the United Kingdom may also point to at least one of these strains being more deadly as well. One of these strains originating in the United Kingdom is expected to become the dominant United States strain my March.
From the perspective of CTU, it makes more sense to wait the remaining weeks before teachers are able to be vaccinated rather than rush people back into buildings and risk infecting teachers and staff, families, and the wider Chicago community.