No school Friday because CPS, CTU disagree on reopening

Another day passed without a deal between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union, leaving classes canceled again on Friday for the vast majority of students, although a small handful of schools were to offer at least some activities. .

The union’s disagreement with the school system over COVID-19 protocols amid the city’s spate of Omicron variants meant the vast majority of CPS students would not have classes either in classrooms or online to on the third day in a row when the two sides settled their differences.

Principals across town messaged their families on Thursday letting them know if their students would have limited opportunities to go to school on Friday based on the number of teachers expected to ignore the union’s refusal to work in person and show up in their buildings.

“You shouldn’t plan to send your child to school unless your child’s principal tells you that students can come to school for in-person activities,” the district told families, noting that this would only be the case in “a small number of schools”. . “

About one in eight CPS teachers – 12.8 percent of the district’s 21,600 – visited their school on Thursday, district officials said. Some schools recorded higher rates than others, such as Mount Greenwood, a neighborhood in the far south of the city’s only Republican neighborhood, where the elementary school said more than 90% of its staff had gone. presented this week.

Teachers who follow the union’s union action, which calls only for remote work, an option currently not permitted by the CPS, have been deprived of their emails and other work accounts. Only those who show up in person have access to and can communicate with parents.

The district has asked directors to submit their plans for Friday by mid-afternoon Thursday. Those who expected between 20% and 60% of their staff to show up at school might organize ‘academic enrichment’ such as computer lab activities, sports, games, art, etc. tutoring or writing exercises, but no new lessons, notes or recorded attendance, according to a memo a principal shared with the Sun-Times. Principals with 69% or more of their expected teachers could hold regular classes and record attendance.

One official wrote in a note to directors of a Northwest Side network that they should “be transparent about supports that can be offered to parents, not over-promising when you are understaffed.”

In a video message posted online, Morgan Park High School principal Femi Skanes told families that the Far South Side School will not be holding distance classes on Friday, but will hand out 9-hour laptops. at 3 p.m. so that the pupils can keep them until the end of the year.

“For some of our students who need to catch up on some missing homework or catch up on some skills in the classroom, you’ll have a Chromebook so you can keep doing that,” she said. The devices could also be used for needs such as PSAT or SAT practice, or financial and college aid applications.

Thorp Elementary administrators told their families that 33 staff, including janitors, lunch attendants and bus helpers, would supervise the children. The school prioritized special education students and children whose parents cannot work remotely for in-person presence on Friday.

But after 18 confirmed cases this week, principal Efren Toledo wrote in an email to the school community that any student who wants to go to school on Friday must be enrolled in the district’s COVID-19 testing program. All CPS parents can register their children for in-class tests at This program is intended for asymptomatic people – anyone with symptoms has been asked to get tested at a pharmacy, clinic or other medical site.

“It’s something that’s going to be a little different,” Toledo told families during an online webinar. “If they come back, they will have to be registered. It is very important that we have a strong testing protocol.

Half of Thorp’s students have been enrolled so far. Large-scale testing would help identify the “very, very, very contagious variant of Omicron,” even if the school has strong mitigation protocols in place, he said.

More principals said they received news of positive viral tests administered earlier in the week that showed more infections in their schools than before the winter break. Confirmed cases of the virus have reached record highs this week, in line with the city’s wider wave. Infections remained a small fraction of the district’s 272,000 students in unlicensed schools and 40,000 staff, although many struggled to access testing.

There were 433 positive cases among students and 280 among adults reported on Tuesday, more than double the previous high school this school year, which came just before the winter break, according to CPS records. Student cases fell to 136 on Wednesday, the first day of canceled classes, while infections among adults stood at 208.

The CTU has demanded that students and staff present negative test results before returning to class and called for increased testing capacity in the future. The two sides are also discussing a threshold for teacher and student absences that would trigger the closure of an individual school for a few days.

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