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Chicago Teachers Union suddenly agrees to immediate in-person classes after threatening to strike

Thomas Catenacci, DCNF

The Chicago Teachers Union approved a deal with city officials that ensures an immediate return to in-person instruction, the union said Wednesday morning.

The teachers union approved the Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) proposed plan to return to in-person classes in a 13,681-to-6,585 vote Wednesday morning, the union announced. In-person instruction was supposed to begin on Feb. 1, but was delayed after the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) voted to defy the city’s plan in January.

“Let me be clear. This plan is not what any of us deserve. Not us. Not our students. Not their families,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said in a statement Wednesday. “The fact that CPS could not delay reopening a few short weeks to ramp up vaccinations and preparations in schools is a disgrace.”

In January, after defying CPS’ plan for in-person classes to resume, the CTU threatened to strike and refused to return unless teachers were vaccinated. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said last week the AFT would completely support a CTU strike, Bloomberg News reported.

It is unclear why CTU teachers voted in favor of the plan Wednesday after demanding vaccinations.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson have been strong proponents of a return to in-person instruction, according to The Associated Press. The pair have threatened teachers with discipline including termination and said last week that teachers who don’t show up to classes as ordered will lose access to the city’s online teaching portal.

“The vast majority of CPS families have been separated from their schools for nearly a year, and the ratification of our agreement ensures families have options to choose in-person learning and make a plan that is best for them,” Lightfoot and Jackson said in a joint statement Wednesday. “We look forward to welcoming students as they return to their classrooms in the days ahead.”

The city has made all the proper preparations for a healthy and safe return to classes, they added.

Pre-K students and children in intensive cluster classrooms will return to class on Thursday, according to the updated CPS plan. Elementary school students will return on March 1 and middle school students will return March 8.

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